Film Reviews

Hava Nagila: The Movie Is Tirelessly Glib

Something like the doc equivalent of a Yiddish-humor bathroom book, vet TV-doc producer Roberta Grossman's tirelessly glib little movie tracks the cultural trajectory of the eponymous song, "from Ukraine to YouTube," and makes a big tzimmes along the way about "being Jewish," as if that required practice. The historical roots of the song in the nigunim of Eastern European shtetls are traced within the first 15 minutes; thereafter, Grossman relishes doodling on the American diaspora and the growth of affluent Jewish culture after World War II, when the ubiquitous party ditty got covered by everyone from Harry Belafonte (interviewed) to Bob Dylan (not), and grotesque bar mitzvah fetes were the defiant answer to memories of the Holocaust. Patronizing from toe to chin, the film opts continually for self-congratulation and cheesy aphorism, and could've-should've been comfortable slotted into a half hour of airtime on TJC (channel 528 on Time Warner Cable).

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Michael Atkinson is a regular film contributor at the Village Voice. His work also appears in LA Weekly, Denver Westword, Phoenix New Times, Miami New Times,, Houston Press and Dallas Observer.

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