Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Hava Nagila

posted by Nell Minow
B+
Lowest Recommended Age:4th - 6th Grades
MPAA Rating:Not rated
Profanity:None
Nudity/Sex:None
Alcohol/Drugs:None
Violence/Scariness:References to the Holocaust
Diversity Issues:A theme of the movie
Movie Release Date:April 26, 2013

It is annoying, frustrating, embarrassing, and irresistible.  It is a tradition that has transcended its origins and yet calls us back to the complicated feelings of our past.

All of which makes it a perfect Rorschach test and intriguing metaphor for many elements of the contemporary Jewish identity.

YouTube Preview Image

“Hava Nagila” is a song that has been performed by pretty nearly everyone.  Harry Belafonte had one of his biggest hits — he says the two songs people alway ask him for are “Day-O” and “Hava Nagila.” It was also a big hit for Connie Francis (she jokes that when asked if she is Jewish, she says, “Ten percent on my manager’s side.”).  Glen Campbell sang it.  Parodist Alan “Camp Granada” Sherman sang it in a duet with opera star Roberta Peters.  A highlight of the movie is the clips from “The Simpsons,” the Muppets, Monty Python, “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “House,” and performers from China, Iran, Egypt, Thailand, the UK, Serbia, Estonia, South Korea, Mexico, and, wearing cowboy hats and bandanas, Texas.

Unquestionably the strangest version is only about 30 second long and features yodeling.  It’s the one music scholar Josh Kum calls “both an embrace and a refusal” and “the smartest song about Jewish identity I’ve ever heard.” It’s by Bob Dylan.

We learn something of “Hava Nagila’s” origins as a “niggun” (wordless song) and its evolution into an anthem of the post-WWII era of suburban Jewish simchas (celebrations of happy occasions).  Like “Hokey Pokey” and “The Macarena,” it benefits from its catchy tune, limited range, and association with a dance that can be performed by pre-schoolers and grandparents.  Like the song it celebrates, this film can be annoying, but it is hard to resist.  As one person says in this documentary about “Hava Nagila,” “they played it at my bar mitzvah — but not at my wedding!”  It is clear that when he was old enough to call the shots, he did not want to hear that corny old song again.  And yet, we will not be surprised if Hava Nagila returns when his own children become b’nai mitzvot.  Bet you a quarter you find yourself humming it.

Parents should know that this film includes references to the Holocaust.

Family discussion: Which version of the song do you like best?  Why?  Why do you think it is so enduringly popular?

If you like this, try: “The Tribe” and some of the movies and performers featured in this film.



Previous Posts

Smile of the Week: Uptown Funk from Alex Boye and the Dancing Grannies
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/rjRlJvOxIY0?rel=0" frameborder="0"] "Uptown Funk," from Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars, is covered in a sensational new video from longtime Mormon Tabernacle Choir member Alex Boyé and back-up performers ranging in age from 65-92.

posted 9:16:46am Feb. 27, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Like Sunday, Like Rain with Debra Messing and Leighton Meester
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B28IHhaQXCE?rel=0" frameborder="0"]

posted 8:00:29am Feb. 27, 2015 | read full post »

List: The Best Movie Con Games and Grifters
In honor of this week's release of "Focus," here are some of my favorite movies about con games and grifters. Remember that "con" comes from "confidence." A con man (or woman) makes you believe in them and have confidence in their schemes. And cons make great movies. If you haven't seen these, crank

posted 3:45:21pm Feb. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Trailer: Love & Mercy with Paul Dano and John Cusack as Brian Wilson
[iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/VUhFpFQeilM?rel=0" frameborder="0"] "Love & Mercy" tells the story of Brian Wilson, the brilliant but troubled member of the Beach Boys.

posted 8:14:21am Feb. 26, 2015 | read full post »

Contest: Win an Insurgent T-Shirt
Getting ready for the second film in the "Divergent" series? Not sure you have just the right thing to wear? I'm here to solve your problem! I have an "Insurgent" t-shirt (Size L) to give away!

posted 3:55:04pm Feb. 25, 2015 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.