“Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas” is a charming musical documentary about a group of Jewish songwriters who wrote some of the most famous Christmas songs of all time. The history of the “soundtrack to Christmas” is told through narration, musical numbers, re-enactments and old movie footage mixed with interviews with contemporary composers, authors and comedians.
In other words, this film has a little something for everyone.
The stories behind “Let It Snow,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “White Christmas,” “The Christmas Song,” “Silver Bells,” “Have a Holly Jolly Christmas,” “Do You Hear What I Hear?” and “Winter Wonderland” are all explored amid performances by Steven Page, Dione Taylor, David Wall, Kevin Breit, Aviva Chernick, the Lemon Bucket Orkestra and Tom Wilson.
Most of these Christmas songs are not religious but reflect the feeling of warmth during the winter, chestnuts roasting on an open fire, jingling bells, snow and the unity of the season.
Out of these heartfelt songs, Jewish composer Irving Berlin (born Israel Beilin) wrote not only the biggest Christmas song, but also the biggest song in history, “White Christmas,” introduced by Bing Crosby in the film “Holiday Inn.”
He was part of a movement of Jewish songwriters who changed their names and started writing Christmas music.
In telling the stories behind these songs and their composers, the film breaks into a colorful musical. The musical numbers are set mainly in a Chinese restaurant, and the film explains why Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas Day. The Chinese and Jews were the two largest non-Christian immigrant groups in America at the time, and they shared the issue of how to make it through a holiday that neither celebrated.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated director Larry Weinstein, “Dreaming of a Jewish Christmas” is a fun, lighthearted film that will put a smile on your face and a song in your heart.
(Atlanta Jewish Film Festival screenings: Jan. 25, 7 p.m., Perimeter Pointe; Jan. 28, 3:35 p.m., Perimeter Pointe; Feb. 9, 3 p.m., Springs)