Behind the curtain: 'The Other Side' takes a look at daily life of Leonard Bernstein

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Mar. 8—Leonard Bernstein is having a moment in pop culture with the Oscar nominated film, "Maestro."

But there's more to the life and times of the American great.

This is the reason the Santa Fe Jewish Film Festival will screen "Leonard Bernstein: The Other Side" at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 10, at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Santa Fe.

The two-part program uncovers some of the lesser-known facets of Bernstein, revealing his many other sides.

Marcia Torobin, SFJFF director, says the documentary recounts Bernstein's career trajectory and his lifelong relationship with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (IPO).

It is narrated by Canadian pianist and actor Hershey Felder.

After the film, Ivy Weingram, curator of "Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music" exhibit, will join via Zoom to examine Bernstein's early years, its influence on his music, and other aspects of his life.

Torobin says Judaism was one of the influences in Bernstein's work.

He was born into an Orthodox Jewish family to parents who emigrated from Ukraine, the liturgical melodies of his childhood resonated deeply within him.

"His Jewish roots are reflected in many of his works, ranging from his Symphony No. 1 ('Jeremiah') to 'West Side Story,' " she says. "They also help explain his relationship with the IPO. That connection began in 1947 in pre-state Palestine where Bernstein first conducted what was then known as the Palestine Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra."

Bernstein played an important role in the early years of the orchestra and its successor, the IPO.

He organized fundraising concerts, including during Israel's War of Independence, often with air raid sirens in the background, and worked with political leaders to further the cause of Israeli statehood.

By the time Bernstein was 29, he had been named assistant conductor of the New York Philharmonic, music director of the New York Symphony, and music advisor to Israel.

Bernstein went on to compose music for other Broadway shows, wrote an operetta, and brought classical music to children with televised Young People's concerts. He embraced jazz, blues, popular music and Jewish music.

"(The film) brings these many other parts of Bernstein's life to light," she says. "Throughout, his Jewish heritage, commitment to Israel and its national orchestra and his refusal to conceal his religion were instrumental in defining the man and his music."

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