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Israel's most light-hearted film fest, the Eilat International Film Festival, will be held for the fourth time this year, from May 24-27. The festival takes its character from the city in which it is held, as most festivals tend to. It's hard to weep over a tragic film for too long when you're deciding whether to go water-skiing or to the aquarium after you step out of the theater. The organizers have chosen an opening film in keeping with the festival's atmosphere, the light comedy (with political overtones) American Dreamz. It's about an "American Idol"-type television show, with Hugh Grant starring as the host, Mandy Moore as a contestant and Dennis Quaid as the US president, who uses the show to campaign.
In previous years, when the festival was held on or just after Purim, parties to celebrate opening night featured chorus girls and boys from some of the city's Las Vegas-style shows in full costume and makeup. This year will offer similar festivities, since Eilat is a festival for people who want to enjoy the city as well as see some films.
Festival organizers are trying to generate interest in the films themselves by sponsoring competitions for Best Foreign Film, Best Israeli Film and Best Children's Film (this last one to be judged by children from Eilat).
The films on the program are a mixed bag, since the Jerusalem, Haifa and Docaviv festivals snap up the most distinguished offerings in international cinema. It would make sense for the organizers to choose a theme for the festival, such as comedy films, that would give it a bit more character. The festival could then concentrate on films that would never be shown in the country's other festivals. A music-themed festival would be another good option.
But instead, they've chosen to go with a mix of all types of movies. The approximately 50 films on the program come from all over the world, with especially high numbers from Greece and Latin America. Festival guests include several representatives of Platforma Video, a Greek film company, as well as director Evangelos Frantzis, whose A Dog's Dream, a psychological crime drama, is on the program this year. Among the more intriguing movies from Greece is Constaninos Haralambous' Love at 16, the story of a group of teenagers in a provincial city in the Eighties, which won the Best Director Award at the Thessaloniki Film Festival. "My Best Enemy," a film from Chile by Alex Bowen, looks at the absurdity of war by focusing on a little-known border skirmish between Argentine and Chilean troops in the Seventies.
American films include Pretty Persuasion, Marcos Siega's story of a teenage girl (Evan Rachel Wood) who accuses her drama teacher of sexual harassment. The film made a big splash at last year's Sundance festival. House of D is X Files star David Duchovny's directorial debut, about an artist looking back on his teenager traumas, and starring Duchovny, Robin Williams, Tea Leoni, and Erykah Badu. The latest film by little-known but prolific director Joey Travolta (John's brother), Final Move, will also be shown. It features (Rod Stewart's ex-wife) Rachel Hunter and Daniel Baldwin in the story of a cop and a psychic chasing a serial killer.
Festival guests expected at press time include Egidio Eronico, whose My Father stars Thomas Kretschmann, Charlton Heston and F. Murray Abraham, in a fictional story of a meeting between Mengele and his son; Diego Valenzuela, director of For Rent, the story of a Chilean musician who returns home after 15 years abroad; and Shruti Bhardwaj, director of Trip Military P.M.T. - Post, a documentary about Israelis and the trance scene in Goa.