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Promoting itself with the hashtag #makemusicnotwar, “Crescendo” presents its theme clearly from the start. But can music bridge the great divide between Israeli and Palestinian viewpoints? In a film both hopeful and heartbreaking, Israeli director Dror Zahavi elicits strong performances from his young cast and veteran lead actor, Peter Simonischek.

World-renowned music conductor Eduard Sporck (Simonischek) is persuaded to create an Israeli-Palestinian youth orchestra, with the goal of performing a “peace concert.” As well as the expected concerns regarding divisiveness and friction, the maestro has his own personal misgivings about the project. His worries are proven true as early as the auditions, when it becomes evident that forming a cooperative ensemble will be a challenge. But Sporck’s reputation is so well-regarded that the aspiring musicians are willing to defy family and societal expectations to perform under his direction. 

The film focuses on several relationships as well as the overall dynamic of conflict between the two warring cultures within the orchestra. The young lead actors deliver impressive performances in their roles. Layla (Sabrina Amali) is an outspoken and determined violinist from the West Bank who clashes with her Israeli counterpart, Ron (Daniel Donskoy). Meanwhile, starry-eyed Shira befriends the talented but shy Omar (Mehdi Meskar) as the divided group settles in for rehearsal. As their conductor, Sporck has much more to teach them about compromise, tolerance and self-discovery than about music. But the learning is far from easy. During the process, the musicians must confront their own anguish and Sporck, his own past. 

As its title suggests, the film focuses on the growing tensions that build to (several) crescendos during the time these young adults live, learn and play music together. As they search for harmony within their own group, the audience is left to question whether peace can ever become a reality in the divided world surrounding these musicians.

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