Does music have the power to overcome ignorance, hate and prejudice among young musicians who have grown up in a state of war? The 2019 film “Crescendo,” which is being featured at the 44th annual Cleveland International Film Festival and sponsored by the Cleveland Jewish News, addresses the question.
“Crescendo” is inspired by the Argentine-Israeli conductor Dan Barenboim and the late Palestinian-American academic Edward Said’s West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which consists of young musicians with Israeli, Egyptian, Iranian, Jordanian, Lebanese, Palestinian, Syrian and Spanish backgrounds. It was formed in 1999 with the intention of promoting coexistence and intercultural dialogue and is still a significant presence on the international music scene.
Academy Award-nominated Israeli director Dror Zahavi tells the fictitious tale of a world-famous conductor who agrees to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, but finds that it takes all his skill and resources to overcome the political discord and get the students to play in harmony. The film features well-known Austrian actor Peter Simonischek as the conductor, Eduard Sporck, and a corps of up-and-coming Israeli and Palestinian performers as the young classical musicians.
Earlier this year, the German/Austrian/Italian-made “Crescendo” made its U.S. premiere as the closing night film at the 29th annual New York Jewish Film Festival, which is among the oldest and most influential Jewish film festivals worldwide.
“In every film festival spotlight, we got an award, including in Ludwigshafen, the Berlin International Film Festival, the Berlin Jewish Film Festival, and in Warsaw,” Zahavi told The Times of Israel. “I’m amazed by the response it’s getting.”