First up was the long-ish short, THE LADY IN ROOM 6: MUSIC SAVED MY LIFE, the winner for best documentary short at the last Oscars. Alice Herz Sommer
That was paired with THE RETURN OF THE VIOLIN, a documentary about...well a violin, but a whole lot more. We start with a beautiful 1713 Stradivarius. Then we put it in the hands of a Polish Jew and musical prodigy Bronislaw Huberman. Then bring on the Holocaust. And watch Huberman save as many Jewish musicians as possible by forming the Palestine Orchestra, which later becomes the Israel Philharmonic. Now have that violin stolen from a New York hotel. And years later have it bought at auction by prodigy Joshua Bell, who returns to Israel and plays it once again with the Israel Philharmonic. Now frame that whole story in the recollections of Holocaust survivor, successful businessman, and philanthropist Sigmund Rolat. What you have is a loving portrait of survival, and the beauty of the continuity that great musical tradition brings.
Then for the next show, we moved on from classical music and the Holocaust to pop music and modern Israel. CUPCAKES is a piece of light-hearted fun from Eytan Fox (THE BUBBLE, YOSSI & JAGGER.) A group of Israeli best friends gather to watch the UniverSong contest, where Israel is a heavy underdog. And for good reason, the goofball, overproduced pop song is just...awful. So to cheer themselves up--and especially for a friend whose husband just left her--they improvise their own song on the spot. And they record it. And next thing you know it's a sensation and their representing Israel in the next UniverSong. Highly unlikely, and leading to scandals private, public, political, and hilarious (I couldn't think of another p word.) After a few hiccups with the local organizing committee that wants to turn them into another cheesy, overproduced, ridiculously costumed novelty act, they decide to go it alone with their simple, heartfelt song. And it's pretty funny and charming.
Total Running Time:193 minutes
My Total Minutes: 373,447