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Projecting the people: Ethnically specific film festivals a true showcase of culture

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Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy documents the relationship between stage plays and the Jewish artists who created them. Ethnically specific film festivals are a true showcase of culture.

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Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy documents the relationship between stage plays and the Jewish artists who created them. Ethnically specific film festivals are a true showcase of culture.

As much as we may flock to movies such as Godzilla, X-Men and The Other Woman, most multiplex product doesn't really reflect the cultural roots of the average Winnipegger.

That's the function of film festivals and the reason for two ethnically specific film fests screening this week.

Kinofilm Fest, Winnipeg's inaugural Ukrainian-language film festival, will screen both old and contemporary films at the Shaw Performing Arts Centre (Manitoba Theatre for Young People) from May 23-24.

Given the current situation in Ukraine, it might be more than a coincidence that Kinofest would launch at a time when Russian-Ukrainian relations are dangerously tense.

"Actually, we have been planning the film festival since last autumn, before these current troubles started," says organizer Valerii Pasko.

As it happens, one of the featured films seems to reflect contemporary tensions. Haytarma (May 24 at 7 p.m.) is a 2013 Crimean Tatar-language film telling the tragic story of deportation of the Crimean Tatars on the order of Stalin in 1944.

Pasko asserts the festival was conceived as a showcase "for a whole range of Ukrainian movies," encompassing a 1961 musical romance called Chasing Two Hares (May 23, at 7:30 p.m.), a selection of animated shorts (May 24 at 11 a.m.), the documentary The English Surgeon (May 24 at 4 p.m.) and even a Ukrainian horror film, titled Synevir (May 24 at 10 p.m.).

"Because of the huge population of Ukrainians in Winnipeg, including immigrants as well as Ukrainian-Canadians, we wanted to show the great diversity of Ukrainian movies, from comedies to horror films to cartoons," Pasko says. "We're planning to make this an annual event."

All the films in the Kinofilm program have English subtitles.

***

The Winnipeg International Jewish Film Festival is an altogether more established festival, with a tradition of screening films from Israel and around the world addressing Jewish themes.

Rady JCC assistant executive director Tamar Barr says the 10-day festival is designed to "demonstrate and celebrate the breadth and depth of Jewish culture, creativity, identity, diversity and resiliency."

The festival also serves as a display of diversity in subject and genre, including:

óè Disobedience: The Sousa Mendes Story (May 23 at 5 p.m.), a historical drama about the Portuguese consul-general stationed in France who disobeyed the orders of his superiors and saved thousands of Jewish lives during the Holocaust.

óè Hunting Elephants (May 24 at 8 p.m.), a heist movie that doubles as a coming-of-age story, featuring Sir Patrick Stewart and a cast of Israel's more accomplished comic actors.

óè Broadway Musicals: A Jewish Legacy (May 25 at 7:30 p.m.), a documentary that draws the connection between the Broadway musical and the Jewish artists who created many of them, narrated by Joel Grey and featuring interviews and performances from the likes of Zero Mostel, Barbra Streisand, Danny Kaye, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel.

The full schedule of films is online at radyjcc.com.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 22, 2014 C7

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