The interplay between family memories and Jewish history is the subject of “Jewish Homegrown History: Immigration, Identity and Intermarriage,” a new exhibition at Los Angeles’s ever-vibrant Skirball Cultural Center. More specifically, “Jewish Homegrown History” explores how home movies can illuminate the story of California Jewry — a community tied closer than most to the project of film.
“Jewish Homegrown History” is the brainchild of The Labyrinth Project, a hybrid art collective and digital research group based at the University of Southern California. The Labyrinth Project specializes in “interactive narrative,” or telling stories via interactive media. Thus the first part of the exhibit is a kind of theater for viewing home movies re-edited by the Labyrinth Project. There’s a touchpad on a pedestal and then rows of benches before three movie screens. With the touchpad, viewers can choose from one of 10 movies on a range of subjects, from a glamorous 1957 wedding to Jewish Hollywood.
One of my favorites was “Murrieta Hot Springs: The Catskills of the West,” a brief documentary about a resort that flourished for much of the 20th century, when many similar places were closed to Jews. Combining home movies, archival photos and interviews, the film is a charming introduction to a little-known (at least among East Coast Jews) bit of American Jewish history.
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