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Universal Themes

22nd Annual Tucson International Jewish Film Festival

Thursday, Jan. 10, through Sunday, Jan. 20

Various locations

299-3000; tucsonjcc.org/arts/tucson-jewish-film-festival

The committee for the Tucson International Jewish Film Festival watches films weekly from February to August to make its annual selections.

"It was a really rich collection this year," said Lynn Davis, director of arts and culture at the Tucson Jewish Community Center.

So what's in store? On opening night at The Loft Cinema, Mike Reiss, a longtime writer and producer for The Simpsons, will be doing a guided tour of sorts. He'll show rare clips and share inside stories, and talk about the history of Jews in comedy.

On Saturday, Jan. 12, the Arizona premiere of Hava Nagila (The Movie) will precede a dance party in the JCC ballroom. "Hava Nagila" is the traditional Jewish folk song now synonymous with Jewish weddings and bar and bat mitzvahs.

"The song is almost a parody of itself," said Davis, adding that film director Roberta Grossman "traced the song's origins back a couple of centuries. ... It's a really rich history."

On Tuesday, Jan. 15, Jeannie Opdyke Smith, the child of a Holocaust survivor, will give a presentation before the screening of Nicky's Family, a film about Nicholas Winton, an Englishman who organized the rescue of 669 Czech and Slovak children before the outbreak of World War II.

Also a part of the festival is the LGBT series at the Grand Cinemas Crossroads 6, which includes two movies, Let My People Go and Yossi.

"We say that the festival contains Jewish content and universal themes," Davis said. "It may be cliché, but there really is something for everyone. ... You can be introduced to a story you never would have heard otherwise."

Tickets range from $8 to $18, and can be purchased online or by calling the JCC. For a full list of films, visit the JCC website.—A.G.


Words for Ecosystems

An Evening of Song and Poetry with Petey Mesquitey and Jefferson Carter

A Benefit for the Sky Island Alliance

7 p.m., Friday, Jan. 11

ZUZI! Theater, 738 N. Fifth Ave.

629-0237; zuzimoveit.org

The sky island region of the U.S. covers 70,000 acres of the Southwest, and Tucson sits in the region's northwest corner. The term sky island refers to mountain ranges that are isolated from each other by valleys of grassland or desert, resulting in one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world.

Unfortunately, this diversity of plants and animals faces serious pressures. That's where the Sky Island Alliance comes in. The local organization works to preserve, protect and restore the region.

On Friday, Jan. 11, two volunteers with the alliance will be showing their love for sky islands with a benefit at ZUZI!

"I've always been involved in conservation and environmental movements," Jefferson Carter, a retired Pima Community College professor and one of the evening's performers, said in an email. "SIA is the best of the many environmental organizations I've supported; it's local and, most important, science-driven."

Carter, also a published poet, will be reading from his newest collection, Get Serious.

"I began writing in the fifth grade, trying to impress a girl I had a crush on," Carter said. Although his poetry is not strictly related to environmental issues, Carter said he is occasionally inspired by his work with the alliance.

A performance by Petey Mesquitey, host of the KXCI radio show Growing Native, will include songs, poetry and scientific instruction.

"The entire evening should be vastly entertaining," Carter said. "And, even better, the audience will have the satisfaction of knowing their donations will support one of the most effective and necessary environmental organizations in the country."

The suggested donation is $5.—A.G.


Stellar Snapshots

Pictures Worth a Thousand Light Years: Art of the Cosmos Exhibit

7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 17; exhibit continues through Sunday, March 24

Tohono Chul Park, 7366 N. Paseo del Norte

742-6455; tohonochulpark.org

At the Art of the Cosmos exhibit currently on display at Tohono Chul Park, three regional astrophotographers are represented; Adam Block, David Allen Harvey and Alistair Symon. Astrophotography, as you may have guessed, is astronomy photography, or pictures of celestial objects.

Edie Wageman, assistant curator of exhibits at Tohono Chul, said she didn't know much about astrophotography before arranging for the exhibit, but has learned a lot since.

"It's really kind of astonishing how much work goes into taking these pictures," she said. Working with extremely long exposures (sometimes days at a time), precision equipment and even weather patterns is just part of what makes this art so challenging.

"The exhibit is breathtaking in a way that it challenges us to think beyond where we exist," Wageman said. "These artists and scientists are giving us an opportunity to see things we never would otherwise."

On Thursday, Jan. 17, photographer Block will discuss the process involved in creating these astral images in a lecture at the park.

"The reason I enjoy taking pictures is because it's a form of sharing," Block said. "I use these images to promote public outreach."

Block runs the public astronomy programs at the Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, where visitors can view the night sky through professional telescopes.

Admission to the Tohono Chul show is $8; $4 for members.—A.G.


Picture This

Surface Tension opening

7 to 10 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 12

Etherton Gallery, 135 S. Sixth Ave.

624-7370; ethertongallery.com

Lecture and print viewing

2 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 13

The Center for Creative Photography, 1030 N. Olive Road, on the UA campus

621-7968; creativephotography.org

Gallery owner Terry Etherton couldn't be more excited about having photographer Joel-Peter Witkin make an appearance at the opening for Surface Tension, a new show featuring work by Witkin, Alice Leora Briggs and Holly Roberts that debuts Saturday.

"We've got some pretty edgy stuff, but we also have some stuff that's just beautiful," Etherton said as he showed off some of Witkin's stunning work that will be on display in the show. "They all have Witkin's mark on them. Nobody else works the way he works."

Witkin, who just wrapped up a major show at Paris' Bibliothèque national de France, earned his reputation by often making gorgeous photographs from grotesque subject matter, including corpses and body parts. But a lot of his work also incorporates references to classic artistic masterpieces. Much of it is so carefully staged that his photographs often appear more like paintings, even though it's all done without the aid of computer programs like Photoshop.

A lot of Witkin's work is so elaborate, Etherton said, that "it's akin to making a movie."

"He has to cast these things," Etherton said. "He hires people to paint backdrops. He brings in props and lights. It's a big production. It can take months to take one picture."

Witkin will discuss his latest work at the UA's Center for Creative Photography on Sunday, Jan. 13. He's told Etherton he'll be bringing along some works in progress so the audience can see how he stages his photography.

Both events are free.—J.N.

More by A. Greene

  • Tucson at Its Best

    We profile six organizations (out of many) working hard to make Tucson the sort of place we want to live
    • Dec 12, 2013
  • Tucson's 100 Essential Dishes

    The Tucson Weekly staff tries to determine what menu items are essential to our culinary culture
    • Mar 28, 2013
  • City Week

    Comedy with the classics ... David Benjamin's Photo Friday ... getting abstract at Davis Dominguez Gallery ... an evening of improv with Zuzi!
    • Jan 3, 2013
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