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Sunday Cinema

Sunday Cinema

Mandala Beats

Sunday Cinema series features a trio of new films about music and the Jewish experience

Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership presents its fourth annual documentary film series, Sunday Cinema, over three Sunday afternoons in February.

Exploring music in the Jewish experience, the series includes the Chicago Premiere of Body and Soul: An American Bridge (Best Music Documentary, San Francisco Black Film Festival), about how the jazz standard of the film’s title smashed the color barrier in popular music; the Midwest Premiere of Mandala Beats, which had its World Premiere earlier this year at the Toronto International Film Festival and features a personal musical road trip through India with acclaimed Israeli bassist Yossi Fine; and the Midwest Premiere of On the Banks of the Tigris (Best Documentary, Baghdad International Film Festival), a musical odyssey that uncovers the nearly erased Jewish connection to Iraqi music.

Each Sunday Cinema screening will be followed by a post-film discussion led by a special guest speaker. The films will be shown in Spertus Institute’s state-of-the-art Feinberg Theater. General admission tickets are $18, with $10 tickets for Spertus members and $8 tickets for students and Spertus alumni. Advance tickets are recommended. They can be purchased online at

“Sunday Cinema furthers Spertus Institute’s mission to present Jewish arts and culture as vehicles to foster understanding of both Jewish and universal experiences.” says Beth Schenker, Assistant Dean for Jewish Studies and Programming Director for Sunday Cinema. “This year, we looked for films that broaden our knowledge of the Jewish influence on music with a special focus on films Chicago audiences wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see.”

Body and Soul: An American Bridge screens Sunday, February 11 at 2 pm. Directed by Robert Philipson, the film follows the jazz standard Body and Soul from its composition by Jewish composer Johnny Green through performances by artists from Louis Armstrong to Amy Winehouse.

Orbert Davis
Special guest Orbert Davis, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, will share both his musical knowledge and his trumpet playing to “discuss” Body and Soul. Davis is a master trumpeter, Emmy-winning conductor, and gifted composer, recording artist, and educator. A leader in Chicago’s arts and culture community, he has been called one of the “most admired Jazz artists” by Arts Critic Howard Reich of Chicago Tribune and a “Chicagoan of the Year” by Chicago Magazine. In 2011, Davis was named Artist-In-Residence for the Chicago Jazz Festival, an honor held by only one other Chicagoan in its history. He has played key roles in film and television, including serving as consultant to Academy Award-winning director Sam Mendes for the feature film Road to Perdition starring Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. His latest album release, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic’s Havana Blue, is the result of an extraordinary residency with Cuba’s Universidad de las Artes (ISA). He hosts The Real Deal with Orbert Davis, a weekly three-hour program airing WDCB-FM.

Mandala Beats screens Sunday, February 18 at 2 pm. Directed by Rebekah Reiko, the film follows Yossi Fine, often referred to as the Jimi Hendrix of bass guitar, as he journeys to India to explore new sounds and collaborations. The trip is spurred by his discovery of his grandmother’s Indian roots. While there he performs with musicians including Shye Ben Tzur and Gil Ron Shama.

Ethnomusicologist Dr. Inna Naroditskaya will introduce Mandela Beats and lead a post-screening Q&A with the audience. Naroditskaya is a Professor at Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music. A pianist from Azerbaijan, she came to the US as a refugee with her then-four-year-old son. Naroditskaya has since completed her doctorate at the University of Michigan, published books on the music of Russia and the Middle East, been the recipient of the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Scholarly Residency and a Senior Fellowship at Harvard, and written on music, politics, and gender for the Washington Post, Pacific Standard, Times of Israel, and Huffington Post.

On the Banks of the Tigris screens Sunday, February 25 at 2 pm. Directed by Marsha Emerman, the film explores whether music can transcend religion and politics. Majid Shokor, an Iraqi-Australian from a Muslim background, discovers a hidden history — the Jewish role in Iraqi music. Shokor journeys from Australia to Israel, Europe, and Iraq, to meet exiled Iraqi musicians and unite them in a concert at London’s Barbican Centre.

Dr. Shayna Silverstein will introduce On the Banks of the Tigris and lead a post-screening Q&A. Silverstein is an Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University. Her research examines politics, culture, and performance in the contemporary Middle East. Previously a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Penn Humanities Forum, Silverstein received her PhD in Ethnomusicology from the University of Chicago.

Sunday Cinema is sponsored by the Wilkow Family. It is the 2018 Solomon Goldman Program Series.

Discount parking is available for $8 at Grant Park South Garage, at 325 S Michigan Avenue, below street level, with entrances on Michigan Avenue between Van Buren and Adams. The discount is good for up to 12 hours with Spertus validation.

Spertus Institute is a partner in serving our community, supported by the JUF/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.


Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Image at left

Yossi Fine in Mandela Beats. Photo courtesy of Seventh Art Releasing. | Orbert Davis photo (below) by Kenneth Muhammad. 

What is Sunday Cinema?

3 Sundays in February
3 Films about Jews and Music
3 Premieres

Sunday Cinema is a mini Jewish Film Festival that happens over three Sundays in February, bringing new Jewish films to Chicago that area audiences wouldn’t otherwise have a chance to see.

The films will be screened in the beautiful, state-of-the-art Feinberg Theater at Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Body and Soul: An American Bridge
Chicago Premiere

February 11 at 2 pm

Mandala Beats
Midwest Premiere

February 18 at 2 pm

On the Banks of the Tigris
Midwest Premiere

February 25 at 2 pm

Turn up your sound for this behind-the-scenes video shot by Noam Chojnowski in Tel Aviv on the set of Mandala Beats.

Mandala Beats