The DocAviv Festival, the international documentary festival in Tel Aviv, which runs from May 3-12 this year at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and other venues, opens with Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, a film that combines art and politics. This documentary, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, is about the controversial Chinese artist who has been under house arrest for months. This film will set the tone for a festival in which films about the arts are front and center.
When low-budget movie maestro Roger Corman visited Tel Aviv in 2010, he got a standing ovation from a jammed hall of eager film students who had come to his master class. Now the director himself, who churned out hundreds of genre movies and nurtured the careers of Francis Ford Coppola, James Cameron, Jack Nicholson, Martin Scorsese and many others, is the subject of a film, Roger Corman: Exploits of a Hollywood Rebel. In addition to interviews and archival footage, it includes film of the 85-year-old director shooting his latest movie, Dino- Shark. As he said in our interview, the title says it all.
Novelist Ken Kesey (One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest) crossed America in 1964 in a bus with a group of friends, who came to be known as the Merry Band of Pranksters, and a lot of drugs.
The film The Magic Trip is the story of that journey, and it features footage of Kesey, Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, among others.
There are a number of films about music, and they cover all different musical genres. Under African Skies looks back at the release of Paul Simon’s album Graceland, in which he collaborated with South African musicians. Back then, Simon was criticized for not boycotting South Africa. The film also focuses on Simon’s recent reunion with these musicians for a tribute concert in Johannesburg.
Award-winning director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) goes beyond the clichés with Marley, a portrait of legendary reggae musician Bob Marley. This documentary features concert footage and interviews with the late musician, as well as recent interviews with his family.
You can expect a young audience for Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest, about a ground-breaking American hip-hop group. The film focuses on the 2008 reunion of a band that inspired such artists as The Roots, The Beastie Boys and Busta Rhymes.
Grandma Lo-Fi: The Basement Tapes of Sigridur Nielsdottir looks at the unlikely career of an elderly woman who began recording her own music and has become a cult figure in Iceland.
Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present is a portrait of an acclaimed performance artist and her 2010 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Gerhard Richter Painting takes a look at the creative process of one of the world’s most celebrated painters.
Eames: The Architect and the Painter is a portrait of a couple who were famous for their furniture design, notably the Eames chair.
Photography is at the center of several films, among them Bill Cunningham New York.
Cunningham, now in his 80s, is a legendary fashion photographer for The New York Times. He is much beloved for his eccentricity (he always travels by bicycle) and his canny eye for street fashion.
Some say his weekly photo column is the most popular feature in the Sunday paper.
Bert Stern was a photographer who helped shape contemporary photojournalism, and he is the subject of Bert Stern, Original Madman. Best known for being the photographer who shot Marilyn Monroe’s last photo session, Stern was one of the first photographers to be known as an artist and for his celebrity pictures. The film examines his career, his influence and his private life, including his stormy marriage to New York City Ballet star Allegra Kent.
First Position takes a look inside a ballet competition for children and examines the sacrifices the children make for their art at a very young age.
Several of the Israeli films also look at the artistic life. Cinema Jenin examines the attempt by several dedicated cinephiles to reopen a movie theater in that West Bank City. The Masada Opera highlights a performance of Nabucco at the historic site, while Rafi Bukaee, My Father looks at the life of the late Israeli filmmaker and his untimely death.For more information and to purchase tickets, go to the festival website at www.docaviv.co.il