Audiences are falling for ‘Love Letters to Cinema’

Israel’s top filmmakers have produced an anthology of short films influenced by the movies they love.

December 8, 2014 21:06
3 minute read.
TUVAL SHAFIR ( background left) and Yuval Scharf star in Avi Nesher’s short film ‘True Story.’

TUVAL SHAFIR ( background left) and Yuval Scharf star in Avi Nesher’s short film ‘True Story.’. (photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)

Love Letters to Cinema, an Israeli anthology of short films by the country’s top directors, had its premiere at the 30th Haifa International Film Festival, and will be shown on television and at theaters around the country.

The shorts have the same theme – how the filmmakers were influenced by the movies they love – but couldn’t be more different in tone. They were made by the directors Avi Nesher, Dana Goldberg, Eran Riklis, Hagar Ben-Asher, Nadav Lapid, Dror Shaul, Tomer Heymann, Osi Wald, Tawfik Abu Wael, Michael Alalu and the late Assi Dayan – a veritable Who’s Who of both the most acclaimed and the newest talents in the Israeli film industry.

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If you didn’t make it to the festive, soldout premiere at Haifa, you can see these films – one at a time – at your local cinematheques, YES Planet theaters, the Cinema City chain and Orlando Cinemas, where they will be screened before feature films throughout the month. The films will also be shown on the YES Israeli movie channel.

“There was something similar at Cannes a few years ago, and we decided to ask directors here if they wanted to make their own love letters to cinema,” says Alona Refua, who co-produced the project with Stav Meron. Both are students in the producer track at the Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television, Jerusalem. The crews of the films were entirely composed of Sam Spiegel students.

The films attracted some of Israel’s top acting talent, including Gila Almagor (who appears in Riklis’ film), Yuval Scharf and Tuval Shafir (Nesher), Evgenia Dodina (Goldberg), Keren Mor and Menashe Noy (Abu Wael) and Gal Zaid (Dayan).

Nesher’s film, True Story, is a look at a young guy (Tuval Shafir, who starred in Nesher’s 2010 The Matchmaker) hobbling on crutches to see Francois Truffaut’s Bed and Board, and who ends up getting into a conversation – and maybe finding romance – with a gorgeous redhead (Yuval Scharf, who starred in Nesher’s 2013 The Wonders) who conveniently sits down right in front of him.

Nesher’s participation in the film was especially important, says Refua, because he was “the first one to sign on. When he gave us the green light, it was much easier to get other directors to agree, and also to get investors interested.”

I was fortunate to have been present at the shooting of Nesher’s film, which took place at the Lev Smadar Cinema in Jerusalem in late December. The relaxed atmosphere on the set was striking – Nesher chatted with various guests from Jerusalem who dropped by between takes – as well as for the fact that two of Israel’s brightest stars – Tuval Shafir and Yuval Scharf – mingled with a crew of film students, extras and the actual usher from the Smadar theater, who played himself.

This very short film is notable for the fact that Shafir, who played a character in The Matchmaker loosely based on Nesher’s teen self, explains to the girl exactly how Jean-Pierre Leaud played Francois Truffaut’s alter ego, Antoine Doinel, in a series of films. It’s even more interesting that Shafir appears for his second time as a Nesher-like character in a short film, because Leaud’s second appearance as Doinel was in the short, Antoine et Colette, which was part of the anthology film Love at 20. Nesher, who is currently at work on a very different feature film now, downplays this as a coincidence.

Dayan’s movie, which he wrote but which was directed by Michael Alalu, is about a boy who goes to the movies with his parents, and witnesses some goings-on in the theater that rival anything on screen. The short was filmed, ironically, on the day that Dayan died last spring.

Tomer Heymann broke the trend of making fictional films, and his short features the distinguished poet, Erez Biton, who goes on a nostalgic journey to his childhood and recalls how movies influenced him.

Riklis’ movie is about a director who searches high and low for an actress who can make the words “I love you” sound convincing, while Lapid’s film shows how soldiers at a Pasolini film become caught up in the action on screen.

“These short films are very eclectic, very Israeli and very surprising. We invited directors whose work we love to take part and we love the films they made,” says Refua.

You can read more about the project and see some clips from it on the Love Letters to Cinema Facebook page at LoveLettersToCinema.

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