Merging the 29-year run of the Washington Jewish Film Festival and 20 years of the Washington Jewish Music Festival into one powerful stream of programming, organizers at Edlavitch DCJCC are kicking off JxJ, a month-long slate of events around D.C. bringing together art, film, music, and discussion.
Ilya Tovbis, founding director of JxJ (that’s “J-by-J”), describes the ambitious project as a multidisciplinary approach to offering the festival audience “a more broad and engaging perspective.” In addition to world premiere films and live music performances by artists like punk rock accordionist Daniel Kahn and his band Painted Bird, JxJ also includes a new category of hybrid arts programs called Studio.
According to Tovbis, who joined WJFF seven years ago, the multipronged approach is about sparking meaningful, organic connections. “We don’t put on the festivals simply to have a great concert or an entertaining movie, even though that’s, of course, part of the experience that we hope people come away with,” he says. “But really, what we’re doing as a Jewish institution is we hope to engage people’s understanding of what the Jewish experience is through the arts, whether that be music or film.”
JxJ also continues the film festival’s long-running Rated LGBTQ program of queer-themed films, this year adding performers to the LGBTQ lineup, including queer Yiddish folk duo Book of J, and “all-gal klezmer sextet” Isle of Klezbos. “It’s a pretty large festival, just by the raw number of events,” Tovbis says. “So we understand that just about no one — I think it’s probably even physically impossible — [can] attend everything.”
However, there are programs that might make dashing between venues worthwhile. Case in point, a 100-year old silent film, Different from the Others, stands out as a must-see gem. The candid, pro-gay 1919 drama, produced in Weimar Germany, follows the romance between a virtuoso violinist and his pupil.
A hit with German audiences upon its release, Different from Others was later buried by the Nazis, who destroyed prints of the film. Presented Thursday, May 16 in partnership with GLOE and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington, the slice of cinema history promises to broaden perspectives of the gay, Jewish experience, along with other elements of the JxJ program that Tovbis believes often go unnoticed.
“We have 60-plus international guests that are coming in from Mexico City and Israel and Europe and all throughout the U.S. and Canada, to share really premier work,” he says. “I think of the artistry that’s here, and hearing from the makers and the creators is really exceptional. People should try to make a few of the screenings and concerts [where] they otherwise wouldn’t be able to interact in person with artists.”
JxJ Festival runs through May 26 at various venues throughout D.C. and MD. Tickets are $13.50 to $30 for a single program. Multi-program passes range from $30 to $195. All-Access passes are available for $325. Call 202-777-3250, or visit www.jxjdc.org.