The YES cable network has long had a tradition of celebrating Independence Day with 24 hours of Israeli movie classics on all its movie channels, and this year is no exception. But this year, that’s only the beginning. This Independence Day, YES is starting an Israeli Cinema channel, which will broadcast on Channel 6.
The channel kicks off with premiere television screenings of two of the most popular Israeli films in recent years.
On May 5 at 10 p.m. you can see Avi Nesher’s The Wonders. This is the fourth movie Nesher has made since returning to Israel after making genre movies in Hollywood for 15 years, and it may be his best film ever. The Wonders has been described as Lewis Carroll meets Carol Reed. It’s a film noir dramedy set in Jerusalem, about an artist/bartender (Ori Hizkiya) who stumbles onto a mystery when he discovers that an ultra-Orthodox cult leader is being held against his will in an apartment across the way. A hardboiled detective (Adir Miller), a mysterious redhead (Yuval Scharf), and his own drawings, which come to life (via animation), all play a part in the story.
It’s fitting that the channel should be inaugurated with the TV premiere of an Avi Nesher movie because his debut film, The Troupe (Ha Lahaka), one of the most beloved Israeli films of all time, has long been a staple of YES’s Independence Day film programming.
If you’ve got the stomach for a great deal of gore, tune in on May 6 at 10 p.m. to see Big Bad Wolves by Navot Papushado and Aharon Keshales, the duo who made the cult favorite Rabies (2010). Big Bad Wolves has won many prizes all over the world, but its greatest accolade came from Quentin Tarantino, who saw the movie at the Busan International Film Festival last fall, and said, “Not only is this the best film in Busan, it’s the best film of the year.”
It features Tzahi Grad as a father whose daughter was raped and murdered and who is determined to extract a confession from the main suspect in her killing, a milquetoast played by Rotem Keinan.
It’s interesting that neither of these two films was even nominated for the Ophir Best Picture Award, the prize of the Israel Academy of Film and Television, yet they have received so much acclaim at home and abroad. Like the American Oscars, the Ophirs tend to go to movies that are fairly conventional.
In addition to these two premieres, the channel will feature the best of Israeli cinema of the past 15 years. Some of these films have been aired before but usually only for a single screening. If you’ve missed any of these wonderful films, which have turned Israeli cinema into a major force on the world movie scene, you can catch up with them now. Among those I recommend are Eytan Fox’s Yossi & Jagger (which took the top acting prize for Ohad Knoller’s performance at the Tribeca Film Festival); Eran Kolirin’s The Band’s Visit, which won more than 40 international prizes, among them the Grand Prix at the Tokyo International Film Festival; Joseph Cedar’s two Oscar-nominated films, Footnote and Beaufort; Avi Nesher’s Turn Left at the End of the World, one of the most financially successful Israeli movies of all time; and many, many more.
Almost all the Israeli films released in the past year will be screened, including Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem, which won this year’s Ophir Award, about a Shin Bet officer and his Palestinian informant, and Johnathan Gurfinkel’s controversial S#x Acts, about a lonely teenage girl who will do anything to be popular.
Older classics will also be screened, including Assi Dayan’s 1976 comedy Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer.
There will be a special theme every month, and in May it will Cannes, since the Cannes Festival takes place in May, so Israeli films that were shown at Cannes and won prizes there will be shown.
Among them are Footnote (which won the Best Screenplay Award) and Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami, which won a Special Mention in the Camera d’Or section.