You cannot escape the phenomenon that is “Hava Nagila.” Even those who have never attended a bar mitzvah are bound to recognize it as a musical staple of all Jewish ceremonies. But what is the song’s actual meaning? How did it become such a Jewish cliche? Lastly, why is it so closely associated with the “Hora?” Those are some of the many questions Roberta Grossman sets out to answer in her new documentary entitled Hava Nagila (The Movie).
While the considerably dry subject matter could’ve easily made for a lifeless film, like most Jews these days, Grossman has a knack for self-deprecating humor which makes for a thoroughly entertaining watch. This combination of history, irony, and family charm, confirm that affliction is not necessary for a doc to be effective. However, even without those splices of humor, the movie would still be compelling.
There has been much conversation surrounding artists like Paul McCartney or Billy Joel but will their music still be heard 100, 200, or 300 years from now? Doubtful. “Hava Nagila” on the other hand, is with us for the long haul. Talk about a posthumous career…
The documentary leaves viewers wondering about the origins of other songs that have been similarly engrained into our culture. Who knows, maybe Grossman’s next doc should be a historical portrait of “Happy Birthday.”
Rating: Entertaining, informative and unafraid to joke at its own expense (8/10)