Two Israeli films taking critical looks at the Jewish state's society and institutions have won major prizes at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival at Park City, Utah.
"Sweet Mud," or "Adama Meshugaat" in Hebrew, a top-grossing film in Israel, follows a 13-year-old boy coming of age in a 1970s kibbutz while coping with a mentally unstable mother. Director Dror Shaul was honored with the World Cinema Jury Prize for best drama film. It had been Israel's entry for Oscar honors in the foreign-language film category but was not named among the five finalists.
"Hot House," directed by Shimon Dotan, received a special jury prize in World Cinema Documentary competition at Sundance. The film depicts Israeli prisons as a breeding ground for future Palestinian leaders, as well as terrorists.
The Sundance awards illustrate both the festival's growing role as a showcase for independent foreign films and Israel's rising prestige in the world of cinema.
Last summer's prestigious Cannes Film Festival, for instance, featured an Israel Day for the first time, with the screening of an unprecedented 15 Israeli films. Sundance gave one of its highest honors, the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary, to Jason Kohn, a young New York expatriate. In "Manda Bala" ("Send a Bullet"), his first feature-length work, Kohn explores the violence and corruption of Brazilian society.
-- Tom Tugend, Contributing Editor
Reich's Pearls of Music
Disney Hall was packed for the West Coast premiere of "Daniel Variations" by composer Steven Reich.
As Reich, one of America's greatest composers, watched from his perch in the control room, conductor Grant Gershon led the L.A. Master Chorale through the haunting, evocative work Reich wrote in honor of slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
Afterward, VIPs gathered in the Founders Room to honor Reich, who turned 70 this year. The composer, clad in black and wearing a signature baseball cap, spoke of the emotional pull the story of Daniel Pearl had for him. "I'm also a father," he said.
Judea Pearl, speaking on behalf of his wife, Ruth, and daughter, Tamara, who were also in attendance, praised Reich's "dark and exuberant" work, which was commissioned in part by the Daniel Pearl Foundation.
"I was totally impressed by how you expressed the darkness turning into hope," he said.
Pearl, himself a musician, said he realized how Reich did this, by using violins to weave light, upbeat notes through the 20-minute work.
"I kept saying, 'Danny, this is your humor,'" Pearl said.
-- Staff Report
Pepperdine Connects Genocide and Religion
On July 6, 1941, Simon Wiesenthal was arrested with other Jews in the Ukraine and ordered to line up in rows to be shot by Nazi forces. The shooting lasted through the afternoon -- but suddenly stopped when a church bell rang and the soldiers had to stop for prayers.
Wiesenthal's life work as a Nazi hunter embodies issues such as these, at the crossroads between genocide and religion: justice, vengeance and forgiveness, justification and responsibility.
Now, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Pepperdine University School of Law will explore many of these issues in an upcoming conference, "Genocide and Religion: Victims, Perpetrators, Bystanders and Resisters," on Feb. 11-13 at both the Wiesenthal Center and the Pepperdine campus in Malibu. The conference will explore all the components of genocides in the 20th and 21st centuries, beginning with Armenia and continuing today in Sudan. The conference will examine what role law should play in mediating this intersection between religion and genocide.
Speakers include Hebrew University professor Israel Charny, president of the International Association of Israel Scholars; Bruce Einhorn, U.S. immigration law judge, and Michael Bayzler, a Pepperdine Distinguished Visiting Professor of Law who was a fellow at Yad Vashem.
For more information, call (310) 506-7635.
-- Amy Klein, Religion Editor
Teen Readers and Writers Talk Shop
Teens and young adults, and authors who aspire to write for them, are invited to attend Sinai Temple's "Focus on Young Adult/Teen Literature" conference, Sunday, Feb. 4, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m., at Sinai Temple, 10400 Wilshire Blvd. The panel of young adult authors will include Sarah Littman, Debra Garfinkle, Dana Reinhardt and Simone Elkeles, and will be moderated by Linda Silver, editor of New Jewish Valuesfinder. An afternoon program will feature an interactive historical survey of Jewish literature for children. Participants can shop at a children's book sale and marketplace, or they can try to improve their own marketing by meeting with an editor available for manuscript consultations ($40 fee).
For reservations and information, call (313) 474-1518 or e-mail email@example.com.
-- Julie Gruenbaum Fax, Education Editor