Things to do in Miami: Miami Jewish Film Festival live-action silent film January 17-19, 2022

A century ago, before the advent of sound in movies, movie theater owners hired a pianist to perform while the images were silently projected onto the screen. When the Miami Jewish Film Festival The organizers (MJFF) had the opportunity to screen three recently restored silent films, they decided to bring the live sheet music format into the 21st century.

“We believed that contemporary sound would create a unique fit for these films,” says festival executive director Igor Shteyrenberg.

Each evening a different local musician will perform a different silent movie live. On January 17, Richard Vergez scores Broken barriers, followed by Rostislav Vaynshtok with Jewish luck January 18th and Sander Willig adding sound to Hungry hearts January 19.

“These films were recently discovered and restored by the National Jewish Film Center,” Shteyrenberg said. New times. “During World War II, so many of these precious treasures were destroyed. Somehow these films were able to survive in dark places. They show what Jewish life was like in the old days.”

Shteyrenberg says he’s given the musicians enormous leeway – so much so that he’ll be hearing the sheet music for the first time on the night of the screenings, with everyone in the audience.

“Sander Willig of the Miami Music Project will perform with a member of the band,” notes Shteyrenberg. “What he does with Hungry hearts is very personal to him. The film reminded him of the stories he heard from his Eastern European immigrant family in the United States. “

Jan. 17 artist Vergez, founder of Noir Age Publishing, said his goal was to “create a sound ambience and let the film’s visuals tell the story. The instrumentation will consist of a synthesizer, d ‘a clarinet, a bow saw and a hammered dulcimer. a mix of ambient and minimal music with touches of the Klezmer scale. And since the film is a drama, you can expect some thoughtful soundscapes. and existential. “

Vergez says the foundation of his score is rooted in research.

“I was able to acquire original vinyl records of ancient Yiddish music, namely the cantor Mordechai Hershman, who played music at the time Broken barriers came out in the 1920s, “he explains.” I felt the need to immerse myself in the sounds of that era to help inform the score and then deconstruct it as I do. “

Vaynshtok (AKA Slavvy) has a long history of live scoring for MJFF.

“In 2018 I did it for the animated film Fantastic planet at the Coral Gables art cinema. They oversold the event and had to pull out all those extra folding chairs, ”Vaynshtok recalls. “I did a rudimentary piano accompaniment, but I loved it. It has become a tradition for me to do one every year for the Miami Jewish Film Festival. “

Vayhshtok enjoys the freedom that the music of a silent film allows.

“I can go crazy,” he said. “I don’t have to worry about having to stop playing every time there is a dialogue.”

He adds that his creative process was heavily influenced by a documentary on the making of the video game. Max payne 3.

“I choose a scene in the movie to give me a mood. Once I have a base, I hardly have to watch the rest of the movie anymore,” says Vayhshtok. “I compose two or three minutes for this scene, but I make it all interchangeable. I usually watch the movie out of order in pieces, and start adding pieces of music that go with the story.”

Recently Vayhshtok created his own short film, What can be broken must be broken who informed their rating process for Jewish luck.

“When I did Fantastic planet, I had no experience in cinema, “he says.” Now that I have made a film, it has influenced my music in a way. I think more as I’m making music about what they’re doing in a scene, why did they shoot it that way? “

For his performance on January 18 on the rooftop of the Betsy Hotel, Vayhshtok will use an 80s-style synthesizer, the Roland D-50.

“I haven’t done a live score on a rooftop yet. I’ve done it in closed theaters so we knew what it would sound like,” Vayhshtok said. “Outdoors you lose control of the sound a little bit, but I’m going to hook up the system and see how it goes. I don’t have to worry about playing everything live like I did in previous films. “

“Yiddish and Jewish cinema between two worlds” from the Miami Jewish Film Festival.
7:00 p.m. Monday, January 17 through Wednesday, January 19, at the Betsy Hotel, 1433 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; Entrance is free with RSVP at

About Herbert L. Leonard

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