The 30th San Diego International Jewish Film Festival is underway. These aren’t your big-budget Hollywood blockbusters. These are indie films with heart that speak to who we are as a people. I managed to catch two Israeli films with music themes on Monday at the Reading Cinema in Claremont Square. And I was delighted to sit in nearly full houses.

God of the Piano began as Itay Tal’s graduate project for film school. Naama Preis –winner of Best Actress at the Jerusalem Film Festival 2019- plays Anat, a dedicated pianist who doesn’t stop playing even when her water breaks. So when her son, Idan is born deaf, the irony is just too bitter to swallow. Determined to raise a piano prodigy, she switches babies at the hospital. “Idan” shares his mother’s love of classical music, but you can see it in her eyes and shaking hands. Anat’s dark secret, long locked up in her heart, keeps knocking, crying to get out.

Crescendo. Can making music bring peace? A German conductor named Sporck is commissioned to lead an orchestra of Israelis and Palestinians to play in a peace concert in Italy. For Israelis, going to the audition means catching a bus or a ride across town. Palestinians have to wake before dawn to get through the checkpoint. Once chosen, they must rehearse together, getting past their anger and fear and learn to listen to each other. When Omar, of the West Bank town of Qalqilya and Shira of Tel Aviv fall in love, things get a lot more complicated.

Is it even possible? Can musicians on opposite sides of the conflict really put their differences aside and play together in harmony? Only if they learn to listen to each other.

Both films feature beautiful classical music throughout played by skilled actor/musicians.

The 30th Annual San Diego Jewish International Film Festival continues through Feb 23, 2020. For a full lineup with times, trailers and tickets, go to www.sdijff.org.

Republished from San Diego Jewish World