Reel Ashkenaz at TJFF

Ashkenaz is pleased once again to partner with the Toronto Jewish Film Festival (TJFF) in presenting a mini film series highlighting Yiddish cinema and Jewish musical stories. This year’s selections include captivating portraits of the late great composer Marvin Hamlisch and legendary music journalist Nat Hentoff, each of whose body of work symbolizes the central role of Jews in American popular music. With Mamele and The Pin—two Yiddish language films produced 75 years apart—we highlight the legacy and continuing relevance of the mameloshen in Jewish storytelling on film. See details below.

For tickets and information visit or call 416-324-9121.

Wednesday May 7, 3pm – Canada Square 2200 Yonge St.
Director: Dori Berinstein; 85 minutes
Over his lifetime, the composer and conductor Marvin Hamlisch earned four Grammys, four Emmys, three Oscars, three Golden Globes, a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize. A musical prodigy accepted to Juilliard at age six, Hamlisch defied expectation and dedicated his talents to popular music. Hits—such as “The Way We Were” and the Broadway landmark A Chorus Line—catapulted him to stardom at an early age.  Featuring interviews which include wife Terre Blair Hamlisch, Barbra Streisand, Carly Simon, Steven Soderbergh, Quincy Jones, Christopher Walken, Sir Tim Rice as well as many, many others, this engaging documentary offers an unprecedented insider’s look at the life and career of a musical genius and genuine mensch.

Thursday May 8, 3pm Canada Square, 2200 Yonge St.
MAMELE (1938)
Dir: Joseph Green and Konrad Tom; 103 minutes
One of the most delightful Yiddish films ever made has now been newly-restored by the National Center for Jewish Film. Molly Picon (“the Queen of the Yiddish Musical”) shines as Mamele (little mother), the dutiful daughter who keeps her family intact after the death of their mother. She’s so busy cooking, cleaning, and matchmaking for her brothers and sisters that she has little time for herself, until she discovers the violinist across the courtyard. Set in Lodz, this musical comedy drama featuring Picon’s trademark song “Abi Gezunt,” embraces the diverse gamut of interwar Jewish life in Poland, with its nogoodniks and unemployed, nightclubs and gangsters, and religious Jews celebrating Succoth.

Sunday May 11, 5:30pm, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W.
THE PIN (2013)
Dir: Naomi Jaye; 85 mins
The first and only Yiddish feature ever produced in Canada, The Pin is a haunting love story about two young adults hiding out in a barn in Lithuania during the Second World War. Filmmaker Naomi Jaye layers this simple story with rich atmospheric camera work, an eye for sensual detail, and moving performances by the two leads, who were taught to speak an impeccable-sounding Yiddish. “With limited resources and the power of storytelling, [Jaye] has created a small film that feels mainstream and epic.” (The New York Times). A TJFF Special Event, which will honour the uniqueness of this film and its production.

Sunday May 11 3:30 pm Royal Ontario Museum, 100 Queens Park
Dir: David L. Lewis; 87 minutes
Nat Hentoff and his passionate championing of jazz made him beloved by musicians and fans, while his outspoken civil libertarian writings didn’t always sit well with his readership. This interesting portrait of Nat Hentoff traces his successes and missteps—from growing up Jewish in Boston where he began a radio show, through his influential writings on Jazz, and ground-breaking Jazz programme on television, to his articles in the Village Voice.  Featuring an outstanding jazz score, this well-crafted documentary shows us a man who is both fascinating and frustrating – a singular figure who happily upends expectations in his pursuit of free expression, never backing away from controversy.

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