Harmonia: Genesis and classical music in my last Jewish Film Fest screening

Today (Sunday) is the last day of this year’s San Francisco Jewish Film Festival. But I’m not attending the Festival today. Therefore, the one movie I saw yesterday closed out the Festival for me.

Luckily, it was a really good film.

A- Harmonia

This wonderful musical drama places the Biblical story of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac in a present-day Israeli symphonic orchestra. And just as in the Book of Genesis, the film deals birth, adoption, jealousy, and the conflicts of love. It’s a sad story, but a hopeful one.

By setting the story in an orchestra, writer/director Ori Sivan does more than provide a beautiful soundtrack – although he certainly does that. He also created an insular society where a patriarch can control his followers and family. Abraham (Alon Aboutboul) is the conductor, greatly respected by everyone. Both his wife Sarah (Tali Sharon) and Hagar, the woman who will bear his firstborn (Yana Yossef), are musicians in his orchestra. He is not their lord and master, as was the Biblical Abraham, but he is their boss.

In his own gentle and seemingly kind way, Abraham must control everything. He wants his sons to become musicians in his image. But in the 21st century, that sort of thing doesn’t always work.

My wife, a classical musician with orchestra experience, assured me that the film looked and felt accurate – except for one problem. Horn players don’t wear lipstick when they perform.

The ending is beautiful, and left the audience clapping with the music. If only the Biblical story had ended as well.

As with every other Festival screening I attended at the Albany Twin, the director was not there for Q&A.

You just might have one more chance to see Harmonia. The Festival is screening it today (Sunday), at noon at the Rafael. Hope you read this article in time.