The Arty Semite

Forward Fives: 2011 in Film

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important films of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“Footnote”
Directed by Joseph Cedar

Director Joseph Cedar, known for his Oscar-nominated “Beaufort,” emerged this year with another breakout film, “Footnote.” Winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes International Film Festival, “Footnote” also took home the top prize at Israel’s Ophir Awards, making it the country’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Academy Award. Unlike Cedar’s previous film, which addressed the conflict in Lebanon, “Footnote” tells a more personal story of a father-son academic rivalry at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Footnote’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Fiction

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important works of fiction of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

”Life on Sandpaper”
By Yoram Kaniuk, translated by Anthony Berris

Yoram Kaniuk rates among the most popular Israeli writers, although few of his books in translation are still in print. Which is why it was such good news when Dalkey Archive Press published his semi-autobiographical novel “Life on Sandpaper” as part of its Hebrew Literature Series. The novel provides an account of Kaniuk’s life in New York City in the 1950s. “Compared with so much anemic contemporary American fiction,” writes Forward reviewer Todd Hasak-Lowy, “’Life on Sandpaper’ overflows with enough impossible situations and memorable characters for a few dozen novels.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Life on Sandpaper’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Poetry

By Jake Marmer

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important poetry books of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

2011 has been a memorable year for poetry. We managed to highlight some of the great recent books both in the arts and culture section of the Forward and on The Arty Semite. Here are the five that resonated most intensely. Because this isn’t a hit parade, the list is not arranged hierarchically, but chronologically, in order of publication. Along with these triumphs, it also seems appropriate to mention the loss the world of poetry suffered with the passing of the great and largely unrecognized American master, Samuel Menashe.

“Coming To Life”
By Joy Ladin

In her poetry, Ladin does not merely recount her story of being a transgender Jewish poet, professor and father of two, with all of the tangled emotional and physiological complexities that involves, but opens, to the reader, the metaphysical depth of the experience. I would recommend reading this collection side by side with Ladin’s previous book, “Transmigration Poems,” published in 2009 — there’s a fascinating continuity between the two.

Read the Forward’s review of ‘Coming to Life’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Nonfiction

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important nonfiction books of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

”The Eichmann Trial”
By Deborah E. Lipstadt

Though 50 years have passed since the trial of Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann, the most famous, and most controversial account of the trial is still Hannah Arendt’s 1963 book, “Eichmann in Jerusalem.” In “The Eichmann Trial,” Deborah Lipstadt uses historical to refute Arendt’s arguments about the culpability of the Jewish councils, as well as the overall significance of the trial. “Drawing on the empirical work of other scholars,” writes Forward reviewer Michelle Sieff, “she argues that, by allowing victims to tell their stories publicly, the trial changed the perception and status of Holocaust victims in Israeli society.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Eichmann Trial’ here and Deborah Lipstadt’s blog posts for The Arty Semite here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Exhibitions

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important exhibits of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“The Sota Project”

In “The Sota Project,” which appeared this year at the Galapagos Art Space in Brooklyn before traveling to Rothschild 69 in Tel Aviv, artist Ofri Cnaani used a 22-minute video installation to examine the depiction of adulteresses in biblical and rabbinic literature. Though Cnaani’s work used hi-tech means, it also drew on traditions of fresco and tableau vivant to tell the story of a woman who is accused of adultery by her husband and is subsequently protected by her sister. As Forward reviewer Cheryl Kaplan writes, “Cnaani’s installation, at times overly complex, ultimately delivers an exquisite corpse that is visually and conceptually rare.”

Read the Forward’s review of ‘The Sota Project’ here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Performance

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important performances of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“Return to Haifa”

Washington D.C.’s Theater J has become renowned over the years (or notorious, depending on your point of view) for its boundary pushing, politically edgy productions. This year, the company presented “Return to Haifa” as the centerpiece of its “Voices From a Changing Middle East” festival. The play is based on a novella by Palestinian author Ghassan Kanafani, about a Palestinian couple who fled Haifa in 1948 and Jewish Holcaust survivors who moved into their unoccupied house.

Read the Forward’s coverage of “Return to Haifa” here and here.

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Forward Fives: 2011 in Music

By Forward Staff

In this, the third annual Forward Fives selection, we celebrate the year’s cultural output with a series of deliberately eclectic choices in music, performance, exhibitions, books and film. Here we present five of the most important Jewish music releases of 2011. Feel free to argue with and add to our selections in the comments.

“Songs of Wonder”
By Basya Schechter

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel is lovingly remembered for his spiritual teachings and social activism, but he is less known for his Yiddish poetry, which he wrote in his younger years. Singer and composer Basya Schecheter sets out to rectify that omission on “Songs of Wonder,” a collection of Heschel’s poetry set to her own original compositions. It isn’t just the album’s unique provenance that is important, however. As Forward writer Alexander Gelfand argues, Schechter’s music is “a coherent statement from an artist who has figures out how to use all the tools at her disposal to sculpt a distinctive sound.”

Read the Forward’s review of “Songs of Wonder” here.

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