Ester Rada is at the Imperial on May 2 and McPherson Playhouse on June 19. (photo from Ester Rada)
Ester Rada’s most recent recording, I Wish, was released in March. The EP features Rada’s interpretation of four of her “favorite songs of the great Nina Simone”: “I Wish (I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free),” “Sinnerman,” “Four Women” and “Feeling Good.” Rada takes these classic songs made famous by an iconic singer/songwriter and makes them her own. Chutzpah, in the best sense of the word – which makes it fitting that Rada is being presented in Vancouver by Chutzpah!Plus. She plays the Imperial on May 2.
Rada was born in Kiryat Arba, just outside of Hebron, a year after her parents and older brother immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia as part of Operation Moses in 1984.
“Childhood is an amazing period of time because, as a kid, you see only the good in life, and there is a lot of good growing up in a small town, so life was great,” Rada told the Independent about her younger years. “Only when I look back I realize how strange and unnatural it is to grow up between fences and soldiers and fear from your neighbor.”
Raised in a religious household, Rada was exposed mainly to religious music, as well as Ethiopian, of course. Her mother’s decision to move the family to Netanya when Rada was 10 (her parents had divorced many years earlier) turned out to be pivotal.
“Netanya is a bigger, non-religious city near the sea, no fences and borders,” said Rada. “Drawn to this freedom, I allowed myself to enter the secular world. At the age of 12, MTV and VH1 were the platforms I could get music from, and there I was exposed to Stevie Wonder and Babyface, Boyz II Men, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, D’Angelo; their souls entered mine.”
Rada composes, sings and plays multiple instruments. When asked to highlight some of her musical training and/or performing background, she said, “At the age of 10, I was part of Sheba Choir. At the age of 15, my brother bought me my first guitar and I taught myself how to play. At 18, I was recruited to the army as a singer for two years.”
She has lived in Tel Aviv since the age of 21. “It is the best place in Israel,” she said. “The culture and art, music and beauty, freedom and love are the things that took me there.”
Joining Habima Theatre, Rada’s acting career took off before her singing career. She has performed on stage, on television and in film. While she still works in both arts, she admitted, “It’s getting harder combining the two. Last year, I was still acting in the theatre, but when I started touring I had to quit. I still get offers, but I’m not going to do theatre soon – but I’m shooting a movie this summer.”
While she speaks more than one language, Rada sings mainly in English. Her full-length record, Ester Rada – which includes the four songs on her debut solo recording, the EP Life Happens – features all English songs, with the exception of “Nanu Ney.”
“The music I listen to is mainly in English, the first song I wrote at the age of 13 was in English – also, I want to share my love with the whole world and I feel English is an international language,” she explained.
Her music has been described as a fusion, “gracefully combining Ethio-jazz, urban funk, neo-soul and R&B”; “her own blend of ska, reggae, world music, dance beats and jazz.” But Rada told the Independent, “I don’t like to describe it, as there is no one definition. I’m a mix of a lot of things and so is my music. Also, I’m changing all the time, so I believe that the ‘Ester Rada sound’ will change as well.”
Her look certainly has changed over the years, and one can’t help but remark on her unique, keen sense of fashion.
“I’ve always loved beauty,” she said of her style. “I remember myself as a kid wearing my mom’s shoes, clothes and makeup. I love that by wearing different clothes I can become something else.”
And much of her music celebrates such freedom, encouraging listeners to have the courage to explore, to not be afraid, to experience life and to enjoy it. Rada’s musical adventures tell us that she definitely practises what she preaches.
Ester Rada’s 19+ show at the Imperial, 319 Main St., on May 2 starts at 8 p.m. Tickets are $36 (students $25), plus GST and service charge, from chutzpahfestival.com or 604-257-5145. She also is scheduled to perform in Victoria at the McPherson Playhouse (rmts.bc.ca or 1-888-717-6121) on June 19, 7:30 p.m.; tickets are $45/$53.
Zvuloon Dub System is at the Imperial on Feb. 20, the first of several world-class musicians taking part in this year’s Chutzpah! festival. (photo by Naom Chojnowski)
“Come prepared to dance!” advises the Chutzpah! promotional material about Zvuloon Dub System’s upcoming show at the Imperial. Wise words, indeed. Just listen to a few bars of any song and you will find yourself moving to the beat.
Founded in 2006 by brothers Asaf and Ilan Smilan, the Tel Aviv-based band is part of an impressive world music lineup at this year’s Chutzpah! As part of its series on the festival this month, the Jewish Independent spoke with Asaf Smilan about ZDS’s evolution into an internationally known reggae group.
JI: How did you come together as the current incarnation of the band, and who will be coming to Vancouver?
AS: ZDS is a little bit like a sports team. We have an extended lineup with sub musicians, and when we go on tour, we need to do some personnel changes in some of the positions from time to time.
The core lineup of ZDS has included eight musicians since 2010. When we recorded our latest album, Anbessa Dub, we brought more musicians to the studio to achieve a certain sound. When we released the album, we wanted to credit all the musicians that took part in the production of the album – the sub musicians that play with us – so we credit all of them on our website.
We’ll come to Vancouver with eight members: Gili Yalo on vocals, Inon Peretz on trumpet, Idan Salomon on saxophone, Ilan Smilan and Simon Nahum on guitars, Lior Romano on organ, Tal Markus on bass and me on drums. This is the same lineup that will play tonight [Jan. 22] in Tel-Aviv.
JI: Is there something about the tribe of Zvuloon that inspired you to choose the name for your band?
AS: Back in 2006 when we start to play together, I used to live on Zvuloon Street in Tel Aviv. We used to rehearse in my apartment and we were surprised to see that many neighbors really liked what they heard. One couple from the other side of the street used to go out to the balcony to listen, another neighbor from our building used to come down to our apartment and sit with us, the man from the grocery shop on the corner brought us Arabic coffee and cookies. We felt strong vibes from that place. So, when we thought about a name for the band, we wanted to capture that special vibe in the name of the band and, because we’re playing roots reggae that relates to Rasta (that relates to the 12 tribes of Israel), we felt that Zvuloon was the right name for us.
JI: Have the reactions to your music differed between Jewish and mainstream audiences? Have you played in the Caribbean and/or in Ethiopia? If so, what was the experience like? If not, any plans to do so?
AS: There are small differences, but basically it’s the same reaction. Sometimes we’re playing in front of a mixed audience of Jewish people, Caribbean people, Ethiopians and mainstream audiences and our music can speak to all of them. This is the beauty of music, the power to touch the hearts of many people no matter where they’re coming from.
When we played last summer in Jamaica, we sang mostly in Amharic. The Jamaican people were really curious to hear how reggae mixed with Ethiopian music, so after we played at Reggae Sumfest in Montego Bay, we got an invitation to come to play in Kingston at the Haile Selassie birthday celebrations organized by the Rasta people.
In Israel, we’re playing many times in front of Ethiopian and non-Ethiopian audiences and we can feel how the music brings people together and how people from different backgrounds can enjoy and dance together to our music.
When people who were not familiar with Ethiopian culture come to me after the show and ask me where they can hear more Ethiopian music, I get the feeling that we’re really doing something important that opens the minds and the hearts of the people.
JI: On Anbessa Dub, there are Ethiopian songs done in ZDS style. Can you talk about adapting them for this album?
AS: I started to listen to Ethiopian music in the early 2000s, a long time before we started to work on Anbessa Dub. After Gili joined the band in 2010, we started to know each other and, one day, we were sitting together and listening to music. I asked Gili if he knew a song in Amharic that I really liked. From that conversation, we started to think maybe we could play this song in the band in our version. A week later, I brought the arrangement to the band rehearsal and everybody really liked the new song, [as did] our audiences. Slowly, we added more Ethiopian songs to our set until we came up with the Anbessa Dub album.
During the work on the album, we developed a unique way to translate the Ethiopian music, which is based on 6/8 rhythms, into a reggae beat in 4/4, so the tempo of the song isn’t changing but the whole feeling is extremely different. When we worked on some of the songs with Ethiopian artists who knew the original versions, it took them some time to understand what we’d done to the songs.
JI: Freedom Time features English lyrics and Anbessa Dub songs in Ethiopian languages. Any plans to do a Hebrew album?
AS: Lately, I have found myself exploring the influences of biblical text on Jamaican reggae so maybe we’ll do something with that in the future. Last year, we released “Manginah,” our first single in Hebrew, so I believe that some day in the future we’ll come up with a Hebrew album.
JI: Who did the cover art of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba for Anbessa Dub?
AS: The beautiful artwork featuring King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba was done by Moran Yogev, a very talented young Israeli artist.
I saw some of Moran’s works that combined elements of Ethiopian art in the newspaper and I felt that she could bring the right appearance to the album. I was very happy when she told me that she loves our music and would be happy to design our album.
JI: What’s the Tel Aviv music scene like these days? In what kinds of venues do you usually play?
AS: Tel Aviv is a small city but the music scene is quite big. You’ll find many talented musicians playing all kinds of musical genres, from Middle Eastern to jazz, from Ethiopian music to rock and roll and electronic music.
We’re playing in many venues, like the Barbie Club, Hangar 11, Levontin 7, the Zone and many other venues in the city.
JI: Are there any musicians, Israeli or not, with whom you would like to work?
AS: We have a list of musicians that we would like to work with, and from time to time we’re doing it. In the reggae field, we have worked with artists like U Roy, Cornell Campbell, Echo Minott, Ranking Joe, the Viceroys and others. In the Ethiopian field, we have worked with the legendary Mahmoud Ahmed, with Zemene Melesse and Jacob [Tigrinya] Lilay. In Israel, we have worked with Carolina, and Ester Rada. I have a dream to collaborate one day with Ehud Banai.
JI: What’s next for ZDS?
AS: I hope we’ll continue to move forward, to create more music, to tour as much as possible and to collaborate with more musicians and, by doing so, to develop our unique sound.
JI: If there is anything else you’d like to share with our readers, please do.
AS: I invite each one of you personally to come to our show in Vancouver and to discover something new, music that unites people and cultures into a groovy soundtrack.
Opening for Zvuloon Dub System at the Imperial (319 Main St.) 19+ show on Feb. 20, 8 p.m., is Brooklyn-based band Twin Wave, which fuses jazz, soul, rock and pop. Tickets are $30, $25 for students. Other Chutzpah! music offerings are Les Yeux Noirs; the Borealis String Quartet, Eric Wilson and Boris Sichon; Daniel Kahn and the Painted Bird; Diwan Saz; and, in Chutzpah!Plus, Ester Rada. For tickets and the full schedule of music, dance, comedy and theatre, visit chutzpahfestival.com.
Maria Kong opens this year’s Chutzpah! festival on Feb. 19. (photo by Guy Prives)
The 15th season of Chutzpah! kicks off Feb. 19 with Tel Aviv-based dance troupe Maria Kong. Founded in 2008 by former Batsheva Dance Co. members, Maria Kong combines dance with art, sound, light, visual effects and technology. And, for the opening of Chutzpah! they take their performance off the stage and into the audience – or, rather, they bring the audience “backstage.”
The JI spoke with Israel’s Talia Landa, Maria Kong performer, artistic director and co-founder (with Anderson Braz from Brazil), in anticipation of the presentation in Vancouver of Backstage, which will take place at Red Room Ultra Bar.
JI: From where does the name Maria Kong come? What is its significance?
TL: We are “Virgin Marias” and “King Kongs” (not necessarily defined by gender). Together, we make Maria Kong.
JI: There is so much innovative dance coming from Israel. What makes the dance scene so “fertile” there?
TL: There could be many reasons why that happens; some more obvious than others. Israel is a great place where people from all over the world meet, connect and meld their talents in order to create magic. It’s a place where creativity and innovation are a driving force in our lives, hearts and souls. We have our fair share of challenges, so we are pushed to approach them with unique solutions. It’s no secret that Israel is the land of high-tech and start-ups; it only makes sense that this creative research and innovation would spread to the world of dance. We have a drive to do things passionately and intuitively, triggered by an inner impulse to never stop moving.
JI: Your vision centres on teamwork. How does Maria Kong’s creative process work in general? How is it decided what ends up in a performance? As artistic director, do you have “final” say?
TL: Maria Kong’s creative process works like this:
1) An idea is born.
2) The idea is placed on the table.
3) The team members from all of the different divisions (dance, music, light, sound and technology) come together to share their unique input and express their particular perspective.
4) The idea transforms from a 2-D piece of paper on the table, to a three-dimensional creation, which we continue to develop together.
Yes, perhaps I have the “final” say, but each creation undergoes many stages of dialogue before the concluding decision is made.
JI: The show planned for Chutzpah!, Backstage, is choreographed for “off the dancer’s stage,” so to speak. In what ways, if any, is the performers’ (and technical crew’s) preparation different for this type of show from that for a stage-based performance? And is there anything the audience should do to prepare?
TL:Backstage is unique in the way that it takes any given space and transforms it into a stage, but not in the conventional manner where the performers are on stage and the audience takes their seats. In Backstage, the members of the audience can grab a beer, join friends at the opposite end of the venue, change views, and experience the performance from a number of different angles.
The audience, time and space are a fundamental element of Backstage. Every venue has its unique infrastructure and particular vibe. In order to prepare for our performance for Chutzpah!, we inserted the Red Room Ultra Bar’s measurements and properties into our computer programs, as we aim to ensure that the graphics and choreography fit the venue and our energies can dance with the people of Vancouver. We reshape our bodies, mind and soul in order to create a tailor-made unique experience in each performance.
Should the audience do anything to prepare? Bring an open heart and wear comfortable shoes.
JI:Backstage, and other Maria Kong pieces, have featured live musical performances, including known vocalists. Will the Vancouver show feature live vocals? If so, can you share from whom?
TL: We are very lucky to have great friends with great talents who are happy to join us on our journey to this great festival. I don’t want to give it all away, but I will share that one of the special guests we are bringing is very close to my heart, and happens to have Canadian roots.
JI: For the simple fact of being an Israel-based group of artists, there was a call by some in India to boycott your performance there in November. How do you respond to such efforts?
TL: Maria Kong is a team of artists with a shared vision: a vision of common values. Our artistic creations are a result of open dialogue and passionate collaboration between the Israeli, French, Brazilian, Russian and Japanese members. We strongly believe in the language of movement: a language that knows no border and holds no passport. It is boundless, endless, holds no limits – a language of human connection, a language of physical and spiritual communication, traveling through all forms of artistic creation. Think of yourself, right now, as you read this text. You are probably in a room, inside a building, within a city, territorially bound by a country, on this wild earth that contains us all. As you continue going through this text, our wonderful earth is dancing in perfect synchronization with our sun, infinitely spinning within our endless universe. The beautiful language of movement is our core – it is fundamental to our survival, and an inseparable element of our existence.
JI: If there is anything else you’d like to add, please do.
TL: I would just like to say that the artistic director of Chutzpah!, Mary-Louise [Albert], along with her team, are the coolest people ever to have believed in us and chosen us to come and share our magic in Vancouver. We are really looking forward to it. So thank you, and see you soon!
Backstage will be at Red Room Ultra Bar Feb. 19, 21 and 22, 8 p.m., and Feb. 22, 4 p.m. Tickets are $29/$25/$20. By way of dance, Chutzpah! 2015 will also feature Shay Kuebler Radical System Art, Idan Sharabi and Dancers with Vanessa Goodman, Bodytraffic, ’Namgis T’sasala Cultural Group and, in Chutzpah!Plus, Serge Bannathan/Les Productions Figlio. For the full schedule of performances, tickets and other information, visit chutzpahfestival.com.
Julie Cohen’s The Sturgeon Queens is informative and delightful.
From the fraught origins of the state of Israel to what a possible peaceful future for Israel might look like, this year’s Vancouver Jewish Film Festival, which runs Nov. 6-13 at Fifth Avenue Cinemas, should inspire even the most cynical. Documentary or narrative feature, there seems to be an underlying theme of hope. And who couldn’t use more of that. Here are reviews of a handful of films that the Jewish Independent was able to preview.
Dove’s Cry (Israel) follows Hadeel, a 27-year-old Arab Israeli teacher, over the course of a school year as she teaches Arabic and Arab culture to a group of students at a Jewish Israeli primary school near Tel Aviv.
The film begins with a school-wide celebration of Rosh Hashanah. Hadeel is cheerful, energetic and inspired. Her personality is electric and she connects easily with her students. The children vie for her to call on them in class, they are excited to be learning. Her Jewish co-workers seem to respect and admire her.
About a third of the way through the documentary though, a tearful Hadeel tries to process the racist outburst of one of her students, who calls her a “stinking Arab” after a disciplinary incident. Speaking to her family, Hadeel admits that this is the first time she’s experienced such overt racism in five years of teaching. Her shock and disappointment are palpable.
More significant, perhaps, are the casual, daily prejudices that Hadeel experiences, most often from her co-workers, the school’s administration and parents. And, however open the children, they know very little about Arabic, Islam, Christianity or Arab culture, and freely express their apprehension about Arabs, Arab neighborhoods and their fears around terrorism. Hadeel is patient, authoritative, good-humored and kind throughout. During a drill, a teacher asks Hadeel if she has a bomb shelter in her community; Hadeel reminds her that, of course, she does, that she is an Israeli, and faces the same physical threats.
There are stark reminders everywhere that Hadeel is creating a bubble of tolerance in her classroom and, perhaps, at the school, but not beyond that. “In the classroom, I teach one thing and, at home, they teach the opposite,” Hadeel laments. One of the central relationships in the film is with the principal, who reminds Hadeel of the limits of her program and often sides with the parents.
By the time Yom Hashoah, Yom Hazikaron and Yom Ha’atzmaut arrive, Hadeel expresses how torn she is about her position in the school and, by extension, in Israeli society. “Suddenly, I feel like I don’t belong to the place where I was born,” she explains.
Ganit Ilouz’s documentary is a sobering look at the strictures and complexities faced by Israel’s minority citizens. It is a potent reminder at how much better Israelis would be served if all citizens were conversant in Hebrew and Arabic and knew some basic facts about each other’s culture and customs. It’s something Jewish Diaspora communities should consider, as well. Hadeel’s name means “dove’s cry,” a fitting name for a woman tireless and steadfast in her pursuit of a better Israel.
At the centre of Hanna’s Journey (Germany/Israel) is Hanna, a smart, driven woman. We first meet her in a waiting room with several other candidates for a job. As one exits her interview, obviously disappointed, Hanna follows her into the bathroom to find out what type of employee the company is seeking. When she finds out that grades alone won’t be enough, that the company wants someone who’s also dug wells in Africa or is an “eco-freak,” she lets down her hair, removes her lipstick and earrings, and undoes the top button of her blouse. When one of the interviewers notes, “this resumé doesn’t wow me with its diversity,” Hanna lies to them, saying that she only just received her acceptance to go work in Israel with people who have mental disabilities. If she provides them with proof, she has a great chance at getting the job.
Problem: Hanna’s mother, who runs a social-service nonprofit that sends young Germans to Israel, won’t fake the letter. Solution: Hanna actually goes to Israel, both to work at a village for those with mental disabilities, and also to spend time with a Holocaust survivor.
“In Hanna’s Journey, I’m attending the question [of the] impact the Holocaust has for Israelis and Germans of the third generation, how the shared past is affecting our lives up to today and inseparably connects us,” writes Julia von Heinz in her director’s statement. “The mixture of fascination and disgust which forms the German-Israeli relations, the neurotic, gets symbolized by my film’s complicated love story.”
In the film, Hanna leaves behind her businessman boyfriend Alex. Their relationship seems solid. Certainly no one in the nonprofit’s house where Hanna is billeted will threaten it, as Carsten is gay and Maja is not only unfriendly, but a full-on antisemite. However, Itay, the social worker at the village is another story. The antithesis of Alex, he is not so fond of Germans, at least at first.
During her time in Israel, Hanna discovers much about herself and her family, in particular, her mother, with whom she doesn’t get along. It turns out that the survivor who Hanna visits knew her mother.
Billed as a romantic comedy, Hanna’s Journey is more contemplative than funny and even the romance part is questionable. It’s really a drama, touching on many important topics and allowing various complexities to remain unresolved. The acting is strong, the script is compelling, and it’s a movie that should be taken seriously.
Even if you’ve read Russ & Daughters: Reflections and Recipes from the House that Herring Built by Mark Russ Federman (click here for the review in the JI), Julie Cohen’s The Sturgeon Queens (United States) is informative and delightful. For whatever reason, the story of Russ & Daughters never fails to captivate.
Joel Russ came to New York from Germany in 1907. He joined his older sister and started working right away to contribute to the family income. He married Bella in 1908 and, in 1913, the first of their three daughters – Hattie, Anne and Ida – was born. In 1914, he opened his first store, on Orchard Street. In 1920, he moved it to Houston Street and there it has remained, joined in 2014 by a new family restaurant, Russ & Daughters Café, located on, appropriately enough, Orchard Street.
Cohen’s documentary came out during the store’s centennial year and it features interviews with the two surviving “sturgeon queens,” Hattie Russ Gold, then 100, and her sister Anne Russ Federman, then 92. Mark Russ Federman, who ran the store from the 1970s until 2008, and his daughter Niki Russ Federman and nephew Josh Russ Tupper, who now run the store, are interviewed, and longtime employee Herman Vargas is also featured.
Other interviewees include Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Morley Safer and Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as chef Mario Batali, as an example of how the customer base has expanded beyond the Jewish community, and writer Calvin Trillin, who’s written stories inspired by Russ & Daughters and wrote the foreword to the book Russ & Daughters. Narration is provided by a table-full of longtime (from one since 1929 to one since 1976) customers, with other historical and family and business information provided by the family interviewees. The use of animation, music, archival photos and film clips all add to the quality of the documentary and the credits are especially cute: they indicate when the film’s major makers’ families each came to America from a wide range of places around the world.
The Jewish Cardinal (France) by Ilan Duran Cohen is based on the true story of Jean-Marie Lustiger, born Aaron Lustiger, a Polish Jew who converted to Catholicism at age 14, during the Holocaust. When we meet him in 1979, he is a vicar in Paris who is being promoted to bishop of the city of Orléans – the location of his conversion and where he was hidden during the war.
A temperamental and intense man, Lustiger causes a stir when he tells a reporter that he remains a Jew, he is Jewish and Christian, “like Jesus,” he says defiantly. He is “convinced that God has willed” his nomination. “I am a provocation that compels reflection on Christ,” he says, without a hint of irony.
The more we learn about Lustiger, played by a magnificent Laurent Lucas, the better we understand his fervor to reconcile his identities and make peace with his few remaining family members, including his father.
Lustiger has advocates in the Church, but also detractors. Though Pope John Paul II is a robust supporter and promotes Lustiger to archbishop of Paris and then, finally, to cardinal and trusted papal advisor, there remains a tension between the two men. (There are several wonderful scenes of Lustiger’s audiences with the Pope, who is deftly – at times, sinisterly – played by Aurélien Recoing.) Lustiger’s relations with the Jewish community are strained and we see Lustiger harassed by antisemites who accuse him of defiling the Church.
After a group of Polish Carmelite nuns establishes a convent at Auschwitz (not incidentally the site of Lustiger’s mother’s murder), he is asked by the Jewish community and the Pope to negotiate a solution. Many viewers above age 35 will remember the convent and the turmoil it caused for nearly a decade until it was removed in 1993. The film captures the politics and nuances of the incident with terrific results.
Throughout, we sense Lustiger’s confusion over how to balance on the edge of Jewish-Catholic relations, once he loses some of his hubris, that is. On a visit to Auschwitz, he can neither say the Lord’s Prayer nor Kaddish for his mother; when his father passes away, he’s distraught, unable to fulfil his promise to say Kaddish.
Lustiger died in 2007 of lung and bone cancer. Kaddish was recited at his funeral outside the entrance to the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris.
For the dreamers of the world, there is Under the Same Sun (United States/Israel/Palestine), written by Yossi Aviram and directed by Sameh Zoabi. The film starts in a mockumentary style, with all hell breaking loose. The media has discovered that Israeli Shaul Cohen and Palestinian Nizar Ahmad are cooperating in a joint business venture to bring solar energy to West Bank villages, and all the talking heads have their opinions about it.
The film then jumps back a year to a meeting in Marseilles, where Shaul approaches Nizar about the project. From this point to near the end, it’s a regular movie, progressing linearly through time, from the project’s genesis, the difficult search for investors, the effects of the venture on their respective families. Skepticism, anger and obstacles must be overcome. We learn more about each man as each confronts their own prejudices and fears. And all looks lost until Nizar comes up with the idea of using a Facebook campaign to create a groundswell of public opinion that will force political leaders to make peace – and, hence, let their energy project proceed. If only social media were so powerful.
Under the Same Sun is crazily optimistic. With solid acting all round, good pacing (helped by Hilal Zaher’s score) and well-written dialogue, it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to conclude a film festival.
For showtimes and the full festival schedule, visit vjff.org.