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Monday, January 24, 2011

22 short films world premiere

I brought copies of the 22 short films to my cousin's bar mitzvah for a few relatives who'd seen the stills here and on Facebook and expressed interest in it. At the event, the rabbi conscripted me to play violin (no violin-playing Jew is safe in such a situation, even if he leaves his instrument back in New York, as I had - invariably there's a spare), and when I told him about the film he offered me the use of a projector. Thus did the 22 short films - actually the first six, based on the 1941-1950 footage - have their world premiere in White Plains, NY, at the reception after the bar mitzvah. Let's all give it up for Reform Judaism, for letting me run a DVD player on Shabbos. And let's give it up for Mom, who narrated the film and identified cast members in absence of a credits sequence.
Mom - star and narrator of 22 short films

I enjoy bar mitzvahs because they are attended by my family. Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are alike, but is that really true? Take my Great-Aunt Sylvia - 91 next month - who said to me within ten minutes of our reunion, "I wish you were as successful as your Cousin Michael in Columbus." I think the joy that stirs in me is fairly personal, if not unique - it may even be perverse. But maybe Tolstoy would give me an argument.

Great-Aunt Sylvia and Mom, 2011

Great-Aunt Sylvia and Mom, 1941

Sylvia with her grandson, my Cousin Ian

The bar mitzvah itself was the most beautiful and moving I've ever attended. My cousin Gabe has a developmental disability and the last thirteen years have presented him and his parents with a fairly continuous series of challenges in terms of his education and therapy. The bar mitzvah showed equally what his challenges are, and how determinedly and successfully he's met them with his family's help. When he finished his chanting and his speech, there wasn't a dry eye in the house.

Gabe before the service

Gabe after the service - all grown up
Be sure to tune in next week, when we celebrate the 74th birthday of Philip Glass with the blog's inaugural video, and an unpublished interview I did with the composer in 1993.

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About Me

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Paul Festa’s first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church (2006, 51 min), captures the responses of 31 artists to the apocalyptic music of Olivier Messiaen (with Justin Bond, John Cameron Mitchell, Harold Bloom; screenings: Grace Cathedral, Barbican Centre, Library of Congress; “Remarkable”The New Yorker; “Stunning”Chicago Sun-Times; “Sublime”Globe & Mail; numerous awards). Festa performs the Tchaikovsky violin concerto, opposite members of the San Francisco Ballet and The Cockettes, in his award-winning second film, The Glitter Emergency (2010, 20 min), a silent-film drag ballet comedy (“Enormous visual and musical inventiveness…full of pleasure and joy...Festa gives a bravura performance."—Film Threat). He produced, wrote and edited, with director Austin Forbord, and was chief archivist, for the Emmy-nominated documentary Stage Left: A Story of Theater in San Francisco (2010, 80 min: with Robin Williams, Bill Irwin, Peter Coyote; screenings: Geary Theater, KQED; “Intriguing...entertaining...a valuable record”—Variety). Performances as violinist and actor: ODC Theater, Center for Performance Research, Kunst-Stoff, TheatreFIRST, North Bay Shakespeare, Albert Fuller's Helicon Ensemble (Merkin Hall, Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Alice Tully Hall). US, Boston, NYC, SF, LA and DC (Coolidge Auditorium at the Library of Congress on the “Betts” Stradivarius) premieres of Messiaen’s Fantaisie for violin and piano. He is the author of OH MY GOD: Messiaen in the Ear of the Unbeliever, based on Apparition of the Eternal Church, and several anthologized essays, and has written for The Daily Beast, Salon, Nerve, and The New York Times Book Review. Current projects include a novel and Tie It Into My Hand (2014, ca. 80 min), a documentary feature that has screened as a work in progress at the Cannes film market and at ODC Theater in San Francisco (with Alan Cumming, Gary Graffman, Peter Coyote, Mink Stole, Robert Pinsky; "A fascinating exploration of the artistic life, as rollickingly entertaining as it is insightful and stirring."San Francisco Bay Guardian). Education: Yale (B.A.; prizes, honors, distinction), Juilliard (Cert., Adv. Cert., scholarships). Residencies: Yaddo, MacDowell, ODC Theater, Centre des Récollets.