(AMHERST, Mass.) – The Borscht Belt Film Festival at the Yiddish Book Center kicks off with a double feature of “Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort” and “Dirty Dancing” on Sunday, May 10, 2015. The film festival, in conjunction with the visiting exhibit Echoes from the Borscht Belt: Contemporary Photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld, runs through June, with movies celebrating the heyday of the Catkills Mountains resort region.
On Sunday at 11am, the festival will screen “Welcome to Kutsher’s: The Last Catskills Resort”, a warm and moving documentary that looks at the legendary, family-owned resort and at the ways the Borscht Belt helped shape contemporary American entertainment and popular culture. Then at 2pm, the festival will screen “Dirty Dancing,” the surprise 1987 Jennifer Grey/Patrick Swayze hit about a teen girl’s formative summer vacationing with her family at one of the region’s famed resorts.
The film festival continues with “When Comedy Went to School,” a 2013 documentary about the Borscht Belt’s role as the birthplace of modern stand-up comedy, featuring interviews with top comics who once performed on its stages, including Robert Klein, Jerry Stiller, Sid Caesar, Jackie Mason, and Dick Gregory, on Sunday, May 17, at 2pm.
The Borscht Belt Film Festival concludes on Sunday, June 7, at 2 pm with “A Walk on the Moon,” starring Diane Lane as an unhappy wife vacationing in the Catskills with her family and Viggo Mortensen as the alluring stranger who invites her to join him at a festival taking place nearby: the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.
Beginning in the 1920s, the beautiful Catskill Mountains region of upstate New York was a popular vacation destination, which came to be known as the Borscht Belt because of its popularity with Jews. In its post-War heyday, the Borscht Belt was home to hundreds of hotels, from high-end resorts to modest bungalow colonies, and was known for its lively nightlife, with top comedians and other performers appearing regularly there.
The Yiddish Book Center is holding the film festival in conjunction with the visiting exhibit Echoes from the Borscht Belt: Contemporary Photographs by Marisa Scheinfeld, evocative, large-scale images documenting the area’s decline in recent years and the effects of time and nature on its now-shuttered resorts. The exhibit, which was developed and curated by Yeshiva University Museum, will be in the Center’s Brechner Gallery through October. Scheinfeld will give two gallery talks: one at the Center’s Community Open House on April 26 at 11:30 a.m. and the other on Sunday, August 2, at 2 p.m.