The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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March 3, 2013

Film screenings coincide with Jewish Community Heritage Project

JOHNSTOWN —  As part of the Johnstown Jewish Community Heritage Project and the current exhibit “Cinema Judaica: The War Years,” two films will be screened at Johnstown Flood Museum, 304 Washington St. in downtown Johnstown.

“The Great Dictator,” produced and directed by Charlie Chaplin, who also starred in the film, will be shown at

7 p.m. Thursday.

“Intersecting Sparks: Art & Science, Research & Exploration,” a documentary by Indiana University of Pennsylvania professor Mary Beth Leidman, will be shown at 7 p.m. March 14.

“The Great Dictator,” which was released in 1940 when the United States was still at peace with Germany, was Chaplin’s first talking feature film and his most successful film.

At the time, the question of whether America should enter the war against the Nazis was discussed in the media, in open forums sponsored by political organizations and in Congress.

The First Amendment right to free speech was not extended to filmmaking, so the motion picture industry was forced to avoid offending any foreign powers, including Germany, through its works.

Jewish characters disappeared from films, and references to the Nazis or the political situation in Europe were avoided.

Anti-Nazi plotlines and Jewish roles were disguised through allegory and character name changes.

By July 1938, Germany became increasingly aggressive and the first openly anti-Nazi films were produced, including “The Great Dictator.”

David Ward of Pitt-Johnstown will introduce the film and lead a discussion after the showing.

“Intersecting Sparks: Art & Science, Research & Exploration” is the story of Israeli artist and scientist Michael Lazar.

The worlds of art and science are generally considered to be separate and distinct, but Lazar spends his life in both worlds, as a museum-level artist and a geophysicist.

The film examines Lazar’s life and work, taking the viewer to various installations of cold-metal sculpture and photography, as well as to the sites of his scientific explorations.  

Leidman will introduce the film and lead a short discussion.

Both events are free.

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