The first anthropological film festival in Israel is currently taking place at the Jerusalem Cinemateque with screenings of 12 powerful local and international films enhanced by discussions, question and answer sessions and the opportunity to engage with top academics, experts and international directors. The event joins 40 other similar festivals around the world.

The anthropological film festival was initiated by documentary film directors, Ada Ushpiz and Nurit Kedar, and is organized by the Jerusalem Film Center in conjunction with Hebrew University’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology. The festival promotes documentary filmmaking with an ethnographic orientation and explores the behaviors, beliefs, experiences, reactions, cultural codes and social threads of different cultures through the medium of film.

The films deal with a variety of issues, from the mourning and burial rituals in Cameroon to the way life is affected for members of an American family that endures incest, abuse and abandonment to masculinity in Finland and Africa.

Each story reveals a unique world with its own set of conventions, rules and logic.
“The visual is just one aspect,” says Gilli Mendel, Director of Professional Projects at the Jerusalem Cinemateque. “When you have academic people sharing their research on the topic, the spectrum becomes much larger. It is an incredible opportunity to watch and learn how societies are built and defined – what makes them hurt, what makes them grow, what makes them unique.”

The process of selecting the films was done by an artistic committee who received and reviewed more than 80 DVDs. The committee included the Jean Roche 1961 masterpiece Chronicle of a summer with a lecture on “What turns a film to an anthropological one ". “We are passionate about every movie we show,” says Gilli. “They are a microcosm of life in Finland, Afghanistan, America, Zanzibar and other parts of the world. The stories that are told allow us to learn, discover and reflect.”

The broader aim of the festival is to show a common thread in each culture’s humane approach to societal and institutional impositions. “We hope the films and the meetings around them will open dialog and change the world by allowing the audience to discover different  people and societies," says Gilli.

The anthropological film festival runs until Thursday November 3.

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