What do we really know about a song that started as a prayer and just might be considered one of the world’s best-known pieces of music? Played at bar mitzvahs and Jewish weddings around the world, it can also be heard late at night in the bars of Reykjavik and on the streets of Managua. “Hava Nagila” is an earworm (a song you can’t get out of your head) the world over, and what a response it inspires! For some, “Hava Nagila” is all about joy, and, of course, there are those who love to hate the song. Director Roberta Grossman, who brought us Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (SFJFF 2008), captures it all.
With humor and wit, Hava Nagila (The Movie) is a foot-tapping celebration of 100 years of Jewish culture and spirituality. It peels back the rich history, mystery and meaning of the song which is “kitschy, but oh so profound.” Together with a brilliant cast of characters that includes Connie Francis, Harry Belafonte, Leonard Nimoy and even Glenn Campbell, we travel with “Hava” around the world. First, to Ukraine, where the “Hava Nagila” melody—originally a Hasidic wordless prayer— was sung, and from there to Jerusalem, where the song found its Hebrew lyrics. We learn to dance the hora and head back to the States where “Hava Nagila” became all the rage in suburban America. Campy Hollywood movie clips where “Hava” is the star of the show are at turns eye-opening, nostalgic, hysterically funny and thought-provoking. Our Opening Night journey will be a celebration with an edge, offering learning and laughter for all.
From 2008 Festival: Director, United States
An award-winning filmmaker with a passion for history and social justice, Roberta Grossman has written and produced more than forty hours of documentary television. She was the series producer and co-writer of 500 Nations, the eight-hour CBS mini-series on Native Americans hosted by Kevin Costner. Grossman’s feature documentary, Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action, premiered in February 2005, and has screened and won awards at more than forty festivals worldwide. Other writing and producing credits include In the Footsteps of Jesus, a four-hour special for the History Channel; Hollywood & Power: Women on Top, a special for AMC; The Rich in America: 150 Years of Town and Country Magazine for A&E, The History of Christianity: the First Thousand Years, a four-hour special on A&E, Medal of Honor, a six-part television series produced for U.S. News & World Report, and Heroines of the Hebrew Bible and Judas for the A&E series Mysteries of the Bible.
1. Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (2005) (producer)
2. Fortune Files 2: By the Numbers (2005) (TV) (co-executive producer)
3. Women on Top: Hollywood and Power (2003) (TV) (producer)
4. In the Footsteps of Jesus (2003) (TV) (producer)
5. From the Waist Down: Men, Women & Music (2001) (TV) (producer)
6. "Escape: True Stories of Suspense" (producer) (1 episode, 2000) (segment producer) (unknown episodes)
Escape from Bosnia: The Scott O'Grady Story (2000) TV episode (producer)
7. Medal of Honor (1999) (TV) (series producer)
8. The Rise of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (1998) (TV) (segment producer)
9. "Mysteries of the Bible III" (1998) TV series (segment producer)
10. "500 Nations" (1995) TV mini-series (producer)
1. Women on Top: Hollywood and Power (2003) (TV) (writer)
2. In the Footsteps of Jesus (2003) (TV) (writer)
3. From the Waist Down: Men, Women & Music (2001) (TV) (writer)
4. "Beyond Chance" (1999) TV series (unknown episodes)
5. The Rise of Christianity: The First Thousand Years (1998) (TV) (writer)
6. "Mysteries of the Bible III" (1998) TV series (writer)
7. "500 Nations" (1995) TV mini-series (writer)
1. Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh (2008) (TV) (post-production)
2. Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action (2005)