Today is Israeli Cinema Day, a day when selected Israeli movies – including movies that have not yet been released – will be shown at theaters all over the country, for the bargain price of NIS 10.

The Ministry of Culture and Sport created the day to honor Menahem Golan, a producer and director who was one of the pioneers of Israeli cinema, following his death last month.

Among these are the movies that are nominated for Best Picture at the Ophir Awards, the awards of the Israel Academy of Film, the winners of which will be announced at a September 21 ceremony. The winner of this award has significance beyond the local scene because that film becomes Israel’s choice to be considered for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Not only are many of these recent Israeli films receiving positive buzz at home, many are traveling the world and being shown at the most prestigious film festivals.

The Farewell Party starring veteran comic actor Ze’ev Revach is a black comedy about retirees who invent a euthanasia machine. It was directed by Tal Granit and Sharon Maymoun, and received the most nominations for Ophir Awards. It was also shown at the Venice International Film Festival, and will be screened this week at the Toronto International Film Festival and next month at the Haifa International Film Festival.

Nir Bergman’s Yona, which will be released soon, is a biopic of the famous poet Yona Wallach. Next to Her, by Asaf Korman, about a woman caring for her mentally ill sister, had its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival last spring, as did Shira Gefen’s Self Made, about an Israeli woman and a Palestinian woman who switch places. Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem won the top award at the Jerusalem Film Festival this summer, was also shown at Cannes and Venice and will be screened at Toronto.

The Israeli film industry has undergone an amazing transformation over the past 15 years. Once, only four or five feature films were made here each year, but now that number is usually closer to 30. While in the past, the government actually had to pay theater owners in Israel to screen locally made films, now these movies draw hundreds of thousands of domestic viewers, win awards all over the world, receive Oscar nominations (seven Israeli films have been nominated for Oscars in the past six years, and one, the short documentary film Strangers No More, has won) and earn millions of dollars at home and abroad.

For more info on times of screenings check weekly entertainment guides for details.

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