We live in a rapidly-evolving age, one in which multiculturalism is both spreading and fracturing at the same time. Humans are now aware of almost everything but know almost nothing deeply. The key to survival? Better understanding.
What does this philosophical tidbit have to do with the ISRAELI FILM FESTIVAL OF CINCINNATI? Well, if -- like me -- your knowledge of Israeli culture could stand to be enhanced, get your neglected self to this two-week extravaganza of moving images that employs myriad topics, styles and genres in an effort to celebrate an often misunderstood land and its inhabitants.
The festival is organized and supported by the Jewish Federation of Cincinnati, a nonprofit group that hopes to "enrich the American vision of Israeli culture and society through film."
The fest kicks off at 7 p.m. Sunday with Dina Zvi-Riklis' Three Mothers, the moving story of Flora, Rose and Yasmin, triplets born in 1942 in Alexandra, Egypt, who now, in their sixties, find themselves living together again in an Israeli apartment. Zvi-Riklis mines her own autobiography for this tale of three sisters who are forced to confront their various hardships the same way they came into this world: together.
Monday at 7 p.m. offers up a two-for-one double feature that also deals with issues of family. Eliezer Shapiro's 50-minute The Last Scene re-creates the separation of 5-year-old Menucha and 11-year-old Mindel, an agonizing visage that finds one child safely with their mother and the other left behind vainly chasing the train that carries them away. The Last Scene is paired with Jorge Gurvich's documentary Pesya's Necklace, which follows an 80-year-old concentration camp survivor who accompanies her 17-year-old granddaughter on a school trip to Auschwitz.
On a relatively lighter note, 7 p.m. Tuesday serves up Frozen Days, a low-budget, black-and-white thriller from first-time director Danny Lerner. Young, beautiful Meow (Anet Klausner) lives a lonely, carefree life. She's a small-time drug dealer who indulges in Tel Aviv clubs by night and lazes about in empty apartments by day. Then one day everything changes -- she survives a suicide bombing, which leads to a series of reality-altering events that finds not only Meow's identity in question but also her sanity.
This quartet of films is just the opening salvo in a festival that continues through Oct. 21 at the Kenwood Towne Centre Showcase theaters and other locations. Tickets for each film are $8, $6 for seniors.
Local hiker and author JEFF ALT (pictured) teams up with fellow local writer GEOFF WILLIAMS for a doubleheader evening of adventure-based books at Joseph-Beth Booksellers. Alt has been addicted to hiking's soul-nourishing nature for more than 20 years. In 1998, he traversed the Appalachian Trail in an effort to raise money for Sunshine Home, a facility for the disabled where his brother Aaron resides. The 147-day odyssey resulted in A Walk for Sunshine, a life-altering travelogue that revealed Alt's newfound sensitivity to his surroundings. Williams' loquaciously-titled book, C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America, tells the story -- via firsthand accounts from those who were on the scene as well as testimony from their descendents -- of a little-known foot race from Los Angeles to New York that, like Alt's jaunt, changed the lives of its participants forever. The duo swaps stories at 7 p.m. Thursday. 513-396-8960. (See listing here.) -- JASON GARGANO
THURSDAY 04 - SUNDAY 07
For many stand-up comics, joining a sketch comedy show like MAD TV -- noted for its numerous impressions of famous people -- can be a daunting challenge.
For Chicago native ARIES SPEARS, however, it was a natural progression. "That's kind of something I've always done growing up," he says. "Watching Eddie Murphy during the '80s on SNL, I was always an Eddie Murphy freak. He's kind of the inspiration for me wanting to do stand-up. That was something I picked up on early." Unlike a lot of comics who do impressions, Spears doesn't really have a favorite. "It's kind of funny," he says, "because to me an impression, especially one you hone and discover you can do and develop ... it's almost like a child to a mother. I love 'em all. They're all my babies." The chance to get out and do stand-up is something Spears finds refreshing. "It definitely allows you to have more control," he says. "In this business we're all control freaks. It doesn't hurt when you can be a writer, producer, actor and star." Spears performs Thursday-Sunday at The Funny Bone on the Levee in Newport. $15-$17. 859-957-2000. (See listing here.) -- P.F. WILSON
THURSDAY 04 - SATURDAY 06
When it comes to war, women often get the short end of the stick and not much ability to control its impact on them. Such an observation could be applied to many contemporary conflicts, but it's nothing new -- as evidenced by Euripides' tragedy, THE TROJAN WOMEN, from 415 B.C. It's a drama about the siege of Troy, depicting the women who became prisoners of war following the deaths of their husbands and the destruction of their city. The script had a powerful (if too brief) performance early in 2007 by Cincinnati Shakespeare Company; now it's the season opener for Miami University's department of theater, where it will be staged by faculty member Bekka Eaton at the Gates-Abegglen Theatre. (There are also performances Oct. 11-14.) It's the first event in a "Social Justice Series" that's been assembled by the School of Fine Arts. The Trojan Women is not an easy story to watch, all the more reason why it's important to see. 513-529-3200. (See listing here.) -- RICK PENDER
Eighty-two million years is a long time. Hell, some aren't willing to grant that it's even possible to look back that far (hello, Sam Brownback). Yet that's exactly what the Cincinnati Museum Center does in its latest Omnimax film, SEA MONSTERS. Director Sean MacLeod Phillips' documentary re-creates the Late Cretaceous era, a period in which a massive inland ocean split North America in two. The effects-laden Sea Monsters fashions a fascinating underwater universe in an effort to investigate a mysterious, little known part of our past. The narrative -- created with the help of several paleontologists, including one of the Museum Center's own -- follows the exploits of a pair of dolichorynchops, or "dollies," from birth to death as they navigate treacherous waters marked by "sea monsters," such creatures as the long-necked plesiosaur and the massive, much-feared mosasaur. Imaginative and immersive, Sea Monsters allows us to glimpse a world once impossible to conjure. Opens Friday. 513-287-7043. (See listing here.) -- JASON GARGANO
Is it possible to cut your Duke Energy bill? Yup, but it takes some thought, creativity and a commitment to doing more than just turning off the lights when you leave the room. Green Energy Ohio is hosting a SOLAR TOUR across the state to give Ohioans a cost-free opportunity to tour different sites that demonstrate sustainable energy technology. Solar electricity, solar hot water, geothermal heating and sustainable building design are just some of the highlights of the tour. Kicking off at Eden Park at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, 12 sites on the East and West sides of town will include residential and commercial buildings. Talk to homeowners and business owners about the practical reality of using solar power. Additional information about energy efficiency resources are available in the Green Energy Ohio Renewable Energy Resource Guide found at its Web site, www.greenenergyohio.org. 513-293-3241. -- MARGO PIERCE
One of the true, somewhat hidden treasures of Cincinnati -- especially for Jazz fans -- is The Loft Society, the casual loft-space apartment next to Myra's Dionysus restaurant on Calhoun Avenue in Clifton that hosts frequent touring Jazz acts, often groups and artists who would be too progressive for some of the city's usual Jazz hot spots. This is a great week to check out the laid-back space if you've yet to, as Long Island, N.Y.-based experimental/Free Jazz quartet MOSTLY OTHER PEOPLE DO THE KILLING (pictured) is this week's featured act. Led by gifted, versatile bassist Moppa Elliott, MOPDTK makes a joyous, discordant and inventive racket, the improvisations explosive and unexpected but perfectly executed and wholly satisfying to anyone with open ears and an open mind. The group appears to have drawn a lot of attention from experimental and Indie Rock audiences, but this is Jazz -- albeit blissfully slanted -- through and through. The freedom and creativity of the music is indicative of remarkable chops and boundless imagination. The group swings through The Loft Society Saturday for a 9:30 p.m. performance. 513-559-9220. (See Music.) -- MIKE BREEN
Saturday 06 - Sunday 07
It's Celtic Weekend at the OHIO RENAISSANCE FESTIVAL this weekend, so look forward to the added bonuses of bagpipe players, kilts and the festival's own Highland Games. What if you aren't the type to put on rubber elf ears, cop an accent and pretend to live in the Middle Ages while throwing down money for hand crafted chain-mail or hosiery fairy wings? Even if you (like me) are not a "cos player" by any stretch of the imagination, the Renaissance Festival is rank with semantic struggle. By invoking language like "dragon eggs" rather than geodes or "fairy dust" rather than bath salts, a discourse arises between what you see and what you're told. Further tension develops between revelers who do adopt the language of imagination as fact and those of us who don't. No matter where you turn, a well-versed lexicon of medieval art references are used, abused and re-contextualized by contemporary fantasy subculture. As a Cincinnati-based visual artist, my year is rounded off by thinking my way through a day of "festivities," eating stew and maybe having my cards read. www.renfestival.com. (See listing here.) -- MATT MORRIS
FIRE FUSION incorporates Jazz, tribal beats, fire spinning, a tapas-style dinner, martinis and a whole lot of clay to fire up your Sunday night. Funke Fired Arts (3130 Wasson Road, Hyde Park), more than the new name of a ceramics shop formerly known as Annie's Mud Pie Shop, is hosting this "all inclusive" arts evening as part of Enjoy the Arts' 20/20 Festival. Funke's huge warehouse space will allow arts lovers to wander among the various exhibitions of local young adult and collegiate artists who will be on hand to talk about their work while others enjoy music or cheer on high school students competing in the Mud Pie Marathon. Good eats provided by Cumin, Bonbonerie and Habanero are accompanied by drinks from Havana Martini Club and Coffee Emporium. The $25 ticket price is "all inclusive" for the 5-9 p.m. event, with proceeds going to pay the artists participating in the event. 513-871-2529. (See Events.) -- MARGO PIERCE
Some people want to tell you the environmental impact that steak you like to eat is having on the planet and its resources. EarthSave Cincinnati is presenting A TASTE OF GREEN 2-6 p.m. Sunday at Park + Vine (1109 Vine St., Over-the-Rhine), designed to present the effects that our food choices have on the environment, our health and all other life on the planet. EarthSave is the local chapter of EarthSave International, a group that promotes eating a plant-based diet and lobbies for the humane treatment of animals. Carnivores are welcome to engage in a lively discussion. Admission is free, but people are encouraged to bring vegan appetizers to share. Also, the group usually sponsors a monthly program featuring a vegetarian potluck and speaker on the third Sunday of the month at the Clifton United Methodist Church. 513-929-2500. (See listing here.) -- KEVIN OSBORNE