The 29th Jerusalem Film Festival just opened and runs until July 14 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque (and other theaters around the city). Among its approximately 200 films (features and documentaries, full length movies and shorts, cartoons and live-action films) are all possible styles, genres and subjects. There are always more wonderful films than can be mentioned in a single article (or two), so film lovers are advised to look up the full program online (at www.jff.org.il).
There are a number of thoughtprovoking feature films from all over the world.
Le Prenom, directed by Alexandre de la Patelliere and Matthieu Delaporte, was recently adapted into an Israeli stage play. It stars Patrick Bruel as a Parisian real estate broker who stuns his friends and family by announcing that he intends to name his soon-to-beborn child Adolphe. Charles Berling and Valerie Benguigui also star in this film, which will likely inspire heated discussion among the audience.
Veteran Russian director Karen Shakhnazarov will be present a screenings of his latest film, The White Tiger, about a tank driver in World War II who suffers amnesia after an accident and is sent to spy on the Germans’ newest weapon, a nearly unstoppable tank.
Dominga Sotomayor’s Thursday Till Sunday, which won the Golden Tiger at the Rotterdam Film Festival, is about a Chilean family on a tense road trip. Sotomayor is also participating in the Jerusalem International Film Lab, an initiative of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, Jerusalem, the winners of which will be announced on July 6.
Alexander Sokurov’s Faust is a disturbing retelling of the legend, based loosely on Goethe’s book.
This Faust is a 19th-century scientist trying to pinpoint the location of the soul. Anyone who doesn’t enjoy seeing corpses dissected in close-up would be advised to skip this film.
For years, some of the most popular films at the festival have come from Asia. This year, there are two from Japan that seem especially promising. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s I Wish is a highly acclaimed coming-of-age story set in rural Japan. Kore-eda directed After Life, and I Wish has received glowing reviews around the world.
Naoko Ogigami’s Rent-A-Cat is about a girl who copes with her melancholy by renting out cats to other depressed people.
In the Friends and Neighbors program, Sally el Hosaini’s My Brother the Devil looks at two brothers from Egypt who are coming of age in London. The film received acclaim and awards at the Sundance Film Festival.
Documentaries are especially strong at this year’s festival.
Frederick Wiseman is one of the best known documentary directors in history, and his latest film, Crazy Horse, will be shown. It’s a look at Paris’s legendary nude cabaret, Crazy Horse, and features his trademark fly-on-the-wall approach.
Philip Roth’s name is often mentioned as a possible Nobel Prize for Literature winner, but the author himself, known for his acclaimed novels including Portnoy’s Complaint and, more recently, the Zuckerman series, is extremely reclusive. In the documentary Roth on Roth, he opened up to directors William Karel and Livia Manera in a series of interviews in 2010.
Another documentary of interest is Dressing America: Tales from the Garment Center by Steven Fischler and Joel Sucher. The rag trade has always been particularly identified with Jews in general and Jewish immigrants in particular. This film combines interviews with unsung garment workers and salespeople with the leading lights of the fashion industry, including Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren (né Ralph Lipschitz) and Anne Klein (née Hannah Golofski) to tell the story of this industry and its place in American business history.
Two candid portraits of world leaders will be shown – The Price of Kings: Shimon Peres and The Price of Kings: Yasser Arafat. Directors Richard Symons and Joanna Natasegara will be on hand to answer audience questions about how they tried to present a full, personal portrait of these leaders.
Dana Doron and Uriel Sinai’s Numbered examines the way four Holocaust survivors feel about the numbers on their arms that are a constant reminder of the trauma they experienced, in a style that is aimed at young audiences.
Regev Contes’s Friends is about how this solitary film director found himself front and center in the middle of last summer’s Tel Aviv social protests.
These recommendations are only a fraction of what is on offer in the 264-page program. Many screenings sell out early, so if there’s a film you’re really looking forward to, it’s worthwhile to buy advance tickets.