Most non-Trekkies can probably recognize the “live long and prosper” Vulcan salute from Star Trek; what’s not common knowledge is its Jewish origins.
Leonard Nimoy, who played Spock and grew up in a Boston Jewish family, proposed the salute in 1967 while filming the episode “Amok Time.” He felt the planet Vulcan should have a cultural greeting signal, and when the director asked for a suggestion, Nimoy thought of the blessing he saw in the synagogue as a child.
The full story behind the salute is further explained in For the Love of Spock, a documentary that screens in the Granite State part of the New Hampshire Jewish Film Festival, which spans March 23 through April 2.
Now in its ninth year, the festival features 11 films, nine of which make their New Hampshire debuts, with screenings in Bedford, Concord, Keene, Manchester, Merrimack and Portsmouth. The films include documentaries, comedies and dramas from the United States, Israel and Europe, and many are accompanied by active programming for festival-goers, from teddy bear picnics and brunches to Saturday socials and performances by the New Hampshire Gay Men’s Chorus.
Co-chair Linda Gerson said via phone that this is the largest Jewish cultural event in the state, put together by 36 volunteers. The screening committee began meeting Mondays in July to narrow the 30 flicks Gerson and her co-chair Pat Kalik came up with to create a balanced program of different themes and genres.
“It’s a major endeavor to put on this show, but the community really enjoys it, and it’s become part of the landscape of cultural activities in the state of New Hampshire,” Gerson said, who added that the show is accessible for people of all faiths and cultures. “It’s a labor of love, but it’s something we all enjoy doing.”
Films are mostly new releases from all over the world. This year’s selection explores things like cultural identity, Hollywood secrets, history’s unsung heroes and the joy of brunch. But one in particular, For the Love of Spock, has a strong New Hampshire connection — its co-producer, Kai de Mello-Folsom, grew up in Sanbornton.
The film, released September 2016, is about the late Leonard Nimoy, his role as Spock and his relationship with his son, Adam Nimoy, who directed the film. De Mello-Folsom learned about the project thanks to a connection from the Sundance Institute, but at first he wasn’t interested; he was trying to move away from crowdfunding projects, and this one looked to raise $600,000 via Kickstarter.
But he and Adam Nimoy hit it off when they met in person, and de Mello-Folsom found himself drawn to the story — and not just because it was Star Trek. (He’s embarrassed to admit he preferred Star Wars as a kid.)
“Without knowing Star Trek, I knew who Spock was, and I knew who the actor Leonard Nimoy was. He was such an iconic person and character,” de Mello-Folsom said. “At the heart of this movie is a story about a father and son, their conflict and their coming back together at the end of Leonard’s life. It’s a beautiful story and great tribute to a wonderful man, and obviously, for the avid Star Trek fans we also have lots of facts and fun stories from the sets.”
For the Love of Spock comprises archival footage and interviews with sources like William Shatner and Walter Koenig. The crowdfunding campaign, launched in June 2015, raised $662,640, becoming Kickstarter’s most-funded documentary, and filming began around the same time, as the crew wanted to finish before the Star Trek 50th anniversary in September 2016.
Adam Nimoy and his dad began talking about the film Thanksgiving 2014. Initially, the idea was to focus on the Spock character, but when Leonard Nimoy died months later, the angle changed to look at Leonard Nimoy himself, as a dad, actor and person.
“[Adam Nimoy] was reluctant to include himself, and include his story into the film, as that’s not what he intended when he and his dad first started working on it. But Leonard’s widow started encouraging him to include his experience,” de Mello-Folsom said. “I think the fact that he was willing to open up through this process and share this personal part of him and his dad was the most interesting aspect of the film.”