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Saturday, April 18, 2015

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Award-winning documentary

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The Lady in Number 6 – Music Saved My Life, a 38-minute Canadian documentary film that won an Academy Award, will receive its Toronto premiere April 13 at the Al Green Theatre, Miles Nadal JCC.

Winner of the best documentary short subject category, the film tells the story of Alice Herz-Sommer, who was the world’s oldest pianist and Holocaust survivor. She shares her views on how to live a long and happy life and discusses music, laughter and how to remain optimistic come what may.

The film was shot in her central London flat where she relentlessly played her grand piano well into her 110th year. Although she was reticent at first to play for the cameras, she overcame her shyness, and her immense talent is showcased with “a little bit of Bach.” Sadly, Herz-Sommer died on Feb. 23, one week prior to the Oscars.

During World War II, Herz-Sommer and her son Raphael were taken to the Theresienstadt concentration camp, while her mother and husband were taken to Auschwitz and Dachau, where they perished. As a means to survive the terrors of the camp, Alice played more than 100 concerts for her fellow inmates. “Music saved my life and music saves me still,” she used to say.

Tickets ($10, cash only) are available at the door before each of four screenings, 12:30, 2:30, 4:30 and 6:30 p.m. Director Malcolm Clarke and executive producer Frederic Bohbot will participate in a Q&A following each screening.

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Artwork in Haggadot: Elaine Gold, a teacher of linguistics at the University of Toronto, will discuss artwork in the Passover Haggadah, looking at examples spanning eight centuries. She delivers her talk in English at a meeting of the Yiddish Vinkl, Free Times Cafe, 320 College St., Thursday, April 3, noon. $18 cash includes buffet lunch. www.yiddishvinkl.com. Reservations to yiddishvinkl@yahoo.ca.

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Names in the News: For the past four years, acclaimed Toronto author David Bezmozgis (Natasha, The Free World) has been writing a novel set in present-day Crimea. While The Betrayers is still slated for publication this September, Bezmozgis is faced with making dramatic changes because the story can no longer be set in the summer of 2014 as he had intended.

As he mused in a recent blog for The New Yorker, he did not expect recent political events to undermine his designs for the book; that was something one might expect about Israel, he wrote, but not about Crimea, which had not been so prominently in the news “since Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill met in Yalta to divide up postwar Europe.” He’d reasonably assumed Ukraine and Crimea “to be locked in a dismal kleptocratic stasis.”

For Bezmozgis, the experience serves as a demonstration that the modern novelist can no longer pretend to keep pace with social and political changes around the world: information travels too fast, and “the clock continues to tick, threatening obsolescence.” Can the modern novel engage with “the grander social and political phenomena of our times, especially now that it competes with a rushing stream of up-to-the-minute reporting?” he asks. 

Publisher Little Brown and Co. has locked the book into a production schedule but has given the author until June to make changes to his manuscript. “Clearly, the only choice is to take it back to the summer of 2013,” Bezmozgis commented in a post-blog interview, “which is something I resisted all along for other reasons that have to do with the novel.” Come rain, shine, war or revolution, The Betrayers is due for release next Sept. 23.

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Arts in Brief

 • Dr. Miriam Trinh discusses Poetry from the Ghettos and Concentration Camps, a free lecture in English. Co-presented by UJA Federation of Greater Toronto’s committee for Yiddish and the Sarah and Chaim Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. Miles Nadal JCC, Monday, April 7, 7 p.m. 416-924-6211, ext. 154.

• Art teacher Osnat Lippa presents “Treasures of the Guggenheim,” a talk about the Franz Marc, Kandinsky, Chagall, Picasso, Mondrian and other pieces from the recent AGO exhibit, focusing on the movements of expressionism, futurism and cubism that emerged after World War I. The two-part Active 55+ series runs April 8 and 29, Tuesdays, at 1 p.m. $20 for both, $12 drop-in, students $6. Miles Nadal JCC. 416-924-6211, ext. 0.

• Jack Newman looks at the many Jewish writers and comedians who influenced television comedy from the classic 1950s sitcom The Goldbergs to the current hit The Goldbergs. Miles Nadal JCC, April 3 and 10, Thursdays, 1:30 p.m. (doors open 1 p.m.) $4 per lecture. 416-924-6211, ext. 155.

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