The Jerusalem Film Festival will be celebrating its 30th anniversary in style from July 4-13 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and other locations around the city with an extremely strong program of hundreds of the best films from all over the world, including, of course, Israel.
It starts with a festive screening of Reshef Levi’s caper comedy Hunting Elephants at the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater. The film stars Patrick Stewart alongside Israeli actors Sasson Gabai and Moni Moshonov.
Among the festival’s many distinguished guests will be Richard Linklater, who will be presenting his latest film, Before Midnight. This film is the third installment in the trilogy of romantic films starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke that began with Before Sunrise in 1995 and continued with Before Sunset in 2004. Linklater is also known for being part of the US independent movie scene, which he broke into in 1991 with the virtually plotless Slacker. He then went on to make films in many styles, including Waking Life, one of the early films to combine animation with live action, as well as Hollywood films such as School of Rock. Linklater will be present at screenings of Before Midnight.
It may come as a surprise that Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf will attend the festival to present his latest film, The Gardener, a documentary, but it shouldn’t – the festival has always shown the latest in Iranian cinema.
Makhmalbaf, who lives outside Iran now, is known for the dramatic films Kandahar, The Silence and Blackboards, among others.
The Gardener was actually filmed mainly in Israel and is about the Baha’i community, which is persecuted in Iran. A retrospective of his films will be shown at the festival.
Richard Pena, the program director of the Lincoln Center Film Society and director of the New York Film Festival from 1988-2012, will receive an achievement award from the festival. He will lead a discussion about the power of cinema and the situation of Iranian directors before a screening of The Gardener .
Another fascinating guest is the Lebanese director Ziad Doueiri, whose most recent film, The Attack, will be shown at the festival.
The Attack, based on a novel by Yasmina Khadra, stars Ali Suliman (Paradise Now) as an Israeli-Arab doctor in Tel Aviv who discovers, in the aftermath of a suicide bombing, that his wife (Reymond Amsalem) has kept a dark secret from him.
The Israeli films will be closely watched this year, in part since so many Oscar nominees have been drawn from their ranks in recent years. Last year, for example, two of the five nominees for the Best Documentary Oscar were shown at the 2012 Jerusalem Film Festival.
This year, 10 films will be competing for the Van Leer Awards for Israeli Documentaries, and they cover a wide range of subjects. Yaron Shani, who made the Oscar-nominated feature film Ajami , has teamed up with Nurit Kedar (who directed the documentary Bettone) to make Life Sentences, a documentary about a Jewish woman who marries an Arab man who turns out to have been responsible for a string of terrorist attacks in the 1960s. Nadav Schirman’s In the Dark Room tells the story of a woman who was married to Carlos, aka The Jackal, the most wanted terrorist in the world. Tanya Aizikovich’s Full Medal Jacket is about World War II Red Army veterans fighting to find their place in Israeli society.
The Haggiag Family Award for Israeli Feature Films will go to one of six films competing this year. As with the documentaries, these films are very diverse in subject and tone. Adi Adwan’s Arabani is about a Druse man who was married to a Jewish woman and returns with his children to his village.
Fragile, the story of a dysfunctional Jerusalem family in the 1960s, is Vidi Bilu’s follow-up to her acclaimed 2005 film Close to Home .
Tom Shoval’s Youth is about two teenage brothers with an almost telepathic connection.
The three programs of Israeli short films are said to be of especially high quality this year, and dozens of directors, including Eytan Fox, have gone from the short-film competition to the front ranks of Israeli directors.
Some fascinating films are competing for the In the Spirit of Freedom Awards in Memory of Wim van Leer, festival founder and director Lia van Leer’s late husband, which focus on films that promote freedom of expression and human rights.
It wouldn’t be the Jerusalem Film Festival without a Yiddish film from the National Center for Jewish Film in the US. This year, Sharon Rivo and Lisa Rivo of the center are presenting the world premiere of the digitally restored print of Mamele, the 1938 classic starring Molly Picon. The Rivos will give a lecture before the film.
The latest in independent cinema from around the world will be at the festival. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha, about a 20-something dancer sorting out her life, will be shown.
Dark Blood is River Phoenix’s last film, which was never released until now. The Taviani brothers’ new film Caesar Must Die, which won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival, is a docudrama about inmates in a Rome prison auditioning for parts in a production of Julius Caesar. Pablo Berger’s Blancanieves has been called Spain’s answer to The Artist. Ryota Nakano’s Capturing Dad is a touching but irreverent film about young sisters who mourn a father they have never known.
Mood Indigo is the latest mind- bending drama from Michel Gondry.
Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant is a reinvention of the Oscar Wilde children’s story.
To the Wonder is the latest visually stunning work from Terrence Malick.
Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer is a documentary about the controversial female rock band from Russia that was jailed for a peaceful protest and is just one of dozens of fascinating documentaries on the program.
Special events at the festival include Love at First Bite: Gary Lucas Plays Dracula , a screening of the 1931 Spanish-language version of the classic, accompanied by American guitarist Lucas, who will play a score commissioned for the festival.
The Moonlight Cinema free outdoor screenings will take place this year at the First Station.
For more information of the films in this year’s festival and to order tickets, go to http://www.jff.org.il or call (02) 565-4350