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Area arts centers continue Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday celebration

As part of a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, this photo by the late Henri Cartier-Bresson capturing the composer-conductor’s energy and vitality will be featured in the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTOAs part of a celebration of Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, this photo by Henri Cartier-Bresson capturing the late composer-conductor’s energy and vitality will be featured in the National Portrait Gallery. COURTESY PHOTO  There may not be a bouncing ball, but the upcoming presentation of the movie “West Side Story” at the AFI Silver will include lyrics to the songs in subtitles on screen. At which point, audience members will be invited to sing along.

The screening is part of a centennial celebration of the birth of Leonard Bernstein – composer, conductor, pianist, author, music lecturer, and teacher – born on August 25, 1918, said Todd Hitchcock, AFI Silver’s director of programming.

“West Side Story” and two other films to which Bernstein contributed the music are the American Film Institute’s contribution to the celebration. One is “On the Waterfront,” a dark drama about a stevedore who confronts the mobster who rules the docks, starring Marlon Brando; the other is the film version of the Broadway musical “On the Town,” about three sailors who find love while on leave in New York.

AFI is one of many arts organizations in the D.C. area presenting concerts, stage shows, and other events to pay tribute to Bernstein, who died on Oct. 14, 1990. A longtime conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Bernstein was considered by many to be one of the most versatile musicians.

Through such programs as “Omnibus” and “Young People’s Concerts,” Bernstein reached out to youthful audiences and others who wanted to be educated in classical music – although he subscribed to the notion that “there are only two kinds of music – good music and bad music.” He also wrote works that fit into or crossed several genres.

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From AFI’s current schedule, ‘Mr. Rogers’ may be the sentimental favorite

  • Published in Film

Fred Rogers with “Neighborhood” friend King Friday from the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” about his long-running PBS children’s television show. COURTESY PHOTOFred Rogers with “Neighborhood” friend King Friday from the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” about his long-running PBS children’s television show. COURTESY PHOTO  AFI Silver features multiple offerings, but Todd Hitchcock, Director of Programming, expects that one film will resonate the most emotionally currently.

That would be “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that reviewers are describing as an affectionate but incisive look at Fred Rogers. From 1968 to 2001, he hosted “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” one of the longest-running and fondly-remembered children’s television shows.

The documentary by Morgan Neville, an Academy Award winner (for another film), focuses on how the cardigan-clad Rogers, a trained minister, was both radical and gentle.

“People got snifffly even during the trailer,” said Hitchcock, who grew up watching the program as well as “Sesame Street.”

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AFI retrospective revives interest in the works of Michael Curtiz

  • Published in Film

Paul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart star in “Casablanca,” one of the films in the “Directed by Michael Curtiz” retrospective at the AFI Silver. COURTESY PHOTOPaul Henreid, Ingrid Bergman and Humphrey Bogart star in “Casablanca,” one of the films in the “Directed by Michael Curtiz” retrospective at the AFI Silver. COURTESY PHOTO  You must remember this.

Any classic-movie fan recalls the opening words of the theme song of “Casablanca” – and probably everything else about it. Even those who’s never seen the 1943 film about emigres struggling to get visas to America against the backdrop of Nazism and a doomed romance probably have of heard of the song (“As Time Goes By”) and most likely the film.

But members of both categories may not know the film’s director – Michael Curtiz. They can find out more in the retrospective featuring some of his works, entitled “Directed by Michael Curtiz,” on view at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center through March 25.

In addition to “Casablanca,” the films of the prolific Hungarian-born director include “The Adventures of Robin Hood,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” “Sea Wolf,” and “Angels with Dirty Faces.”

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“Borg vs. McEnroe” part of EU Film Showcase at AFI Cultural Center

  • Published in Film

BORG MCENROE copyThe Swedish film "Borg vs. McEnroe," starring Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason as tennis rivals John McEnroe and Björn Borg, kicks off the annual European Union Film Showcase now playing through Dec. 20 at the AFI Silver Theatre and Cultural Center. COURTESY PHOTO  Todd Hitchcock and Abbie Algar get to watch movies as part of their jobs.

In preparation for the annual European Union Film Showcase, to take place next month at the American Film Institute Theatre and Cultural Center, Hitchcock, the AFI director of programming, and Algar, the AFI associate director of programming, attend such prestigious film festivals as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes, and Toronto.

“Each of us sees some 40 to 50 films on each of these trips,” said Hitchcock. “There are screenings all day and into the night.”

That's because the showcase is a curated event, “not an open-submission process,” Hitchcock explained.

At this time of year, the theater will present many classic holiday films, including such perennial favorites as “It's a Wonderful Life,” “The Shop around the Corner,” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

However, the European Union showcase, now in its 30th year, will also take place from Dec. 1 to Dec. 20.

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Multicultural music at Strathmore

  • Published in Music

Tararam copyTaharam group opens the Washington Jewish Music Festival. COURTESY PHOTO  When cultural organizations interact, they enrich the community.

AFI Silver Theatre, AMP Powered by Strathmore, the Music Center at Strathmore, and Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center – all Montgomery County arts groups – are serving as sites for the 11-day-long Washington Jewish Music Festival.

The Festival, the flagship of the Edlavitch Jewish Community Center of Washington D.C.’s year-round music program, starts formally on Nov. 2 with a group called Taharam, considered “Israel’s Stomp.” It continues through Nov. 12 with the silent film version of “Humoresque” and a performance by Nomadica, which performs music of Arabs, Roma, and Jews.

“The 19th Washington Jewish Music Festival’s lineup is a very exciting alchemy – it brings together some of the most prestigious, original and boundary-pushing artists from around the world working in the Jewish space, and encourages them to experiment in the nation’s capital,” said Festival Director Ilya Tovbis. “Additionally, we’re doubling down on highlighting and elevating the work and artistry of local D.C. musicians whose output spans hip-hop, klezmer, bossa nova, and cantorial repertoires.”

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Documentaries shine in AFI DOCS Festival

Programming staff, front-line screeners and members of a screening committee spent the better part of this year winnowing down documentary films to include in the American Film Institute’s 15th annual AFI DOCS Festival, which took place at the AFI Silver in downtown Silver Spring, as well as Landmark’s E Street Cinema and the Newseum in Washington, D.C.

“It’s a very long process,” said Michael Lumpkin, director of the festival. “Over 2000 films were submitted this year, of which we chose 103.”

“The films come from 28 countries. All have not yet been released and not yet been shown in movie theaters, online, or on television,” Lumpkin said.

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