By Ray Feller
Ray Feller and her husband, Cantor Michael McCloskey, run the Cantor-Plex Film Festival at Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill. The next session of Cantor-Plex is March 9.
It’s hard to believe, but I didn’t immediately fall for (Cantor) Michael. I was a reluctant dater. A big turning point came one evening over a kugel, when our conversation came around to movies. Michael started listing some of his favorite movies. I was taken aback. He kept listing MY favorite movies! I worried that perhaps one of my friends had given him a cheat sheet about me and he was reading from it. However, as we delved into discussions about Cool Hand Luke, Woody Allen, and Wes Anderson, I stopped worrying and learned to love the Cantor.
Our shared love of movies likely comes from our shared interest in understanding people. We both admire how movies can combine dialogue, music, and imagery to connect the audience to the characters. Watching a movie isn’t just about the time you spend viewing it. It’s also about the conversation after, the thoughts that come to you, the connections you continue to notice. We have often had extensive post-film debates about character motivation, plot consistency,
and our personal connections to the story.
As Michael and I became more and more enveloped by the wonderfully welcoming Temple Emeth community, we decided that we wanted to run a program together. A film series seemed to be the perfect event. So, three years ago, we established Cantor-Plex.
The first year, we screened four Woody Allen movies. We are both fans and wanted to challenge the claim that all his movies are the same. We planned the dates, crafted posters, and bought lots of candy. We also decided to show our movies with captions so people who are deaf or hard of hearing would be able to enjoy them as well. We were so delighted by the crowds! In particular, I remember the gentleman who came to all four movies, only to declare at the end that he STILL didn’t like Woody Allen, but that he appreciated the series.
After that first year, we decided to have more conceptual themes. Last year was “And Justice for All: Jews Who Stand for Liberty.” This year we are featuring four international films with “Family Ties: The Complexity, Diversity, and Humor of the Jewish Family.” Each movie has concluded with a discussion, which is one of the major reasons for the series. We have enjoyed hearing people’s reactions, stories, and insights. I especially enjoy when people are still talking through their ideas as they leave. Each movie has evoked its own reactions. We have also done our best to tie them together so we can watch as certain themes carry through the year.
Our most exciting week was this fall when we presented Sixty-Six, a British movie about a boy who had always felt unimportant in his family. He was so excited for his Bar Mitzvah when he would finally be the center of attention. However, his Bar Mitzvah fell on the same day as the World Cup Finals. As everyone else in Britain cheers for the English team, he is desperate for them to lose so they won’t make it to the final game. Overall, the movie is really about his family and the things that are both challenging and beautiful about them. It’s a great, semi-autobiographical movie and I recommend it (obviously)!
Our problem was that our DVD didn’t have captions. We realized it early enough to find an alternative: Netflix. However, when we arrived with a laptop, cords, etc. and so on, we discovered that our usual room at Temple Emeth did not have a strong enough wireless signal to pick up Netflix. With the help of the people who came in early, we moved the entire event upstairs to the foyer next to the sanctuary – all the chairs, projector, screen, snacks – it was quite a feat! Everyone was very flexible, and ultimately the group effort felt more powerful than if everything had gone according to plan. I also appreciated that everyone understood how important it was for us to have an accessible movie.
Cantor-Plex has really been a wonderful venture. I have enjoyed planning it with my husband. I have also thoroughly appreciated the support we have gotten from the community. I think we have had more attendees with each movie, and we certainly hope to continue that trend.
Our next movie will be on Saturday, March 9th at 7:30 p.m. We welcome anyone who wants to join us!
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