The Messiah isn’t coming to the Jerusalem Film Festival this year, but “the Jesus” is definitely on his way. John Turturro, whose iconic performance as “the Jesus” in the Coen brothers’ The Big Lebowski is one of the reasons the movie became a cult hit, will be a guest at the 32nd Jerusalem Film Festival, which opens on July 9 and runs through July 19 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque. Turturro is one of the stars of Mia Madre by Nanni Moretti, the opening-night film, which will be screened at the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater. Turturro will also give a master class that is open to the public.
This will be the first year that the festival will not take place under the careful and loving supervision of Lia van Leer, the founding director, who passed away in March. However, she would undoubtedly be pleased at the nearly 200 films from all over the world that will be shown, along with all the guests and special events that are part of this year’s festival.
An evening in honor of Lia van Leer during the festival will feature tributes from her closest friends and family. It is free of charge, but reservations are necessary.
The festival’s closing event will be just as exciting as the opening.
Francis Ford Coppola’s The Godfather will be shown on July 18, also at the Sultan’s Pool, and its haunting Nino Rota score will be performed live by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Justin Freer.
Van Leer made sure that Israeli movies were always front and center at the festival, and the competitions for the best feature films, documentaries and short films from Israel are one of the most exciting parts of the festival.
The Gala section features highprofile movies from abroad. It’s an especially strong group of films this year. Bill Pohlad’s Love & Mercy has gotten rave reviews around the world. It’s a portrait of the Beach Boys’ singer-songwriter Brian Wilson and his struggle with mental illness.
Wilson is played as a young man by Paul Dano and in later years by John Cusack.
The short, tragic life of the very gifted singer Amy Winehouse is the subject of the documentary Amy, directed by Asif Kapadia, which premiered at Cannes last spring.
Sarah Silverman has her first dramatic leading role in Adam Salky’s I Smile Back, a look at a woman in a downward spiral. Josh Charles (The Good Wife) co-stars.
Lily Tomlin stars in Paul Weitz’s Grandma as a lesbian writer who helps her granddaughter get an abortion.
Marielle Heller’s Diary of a Teenage Girl is based on a graphic novel and tells the story of a girl in 1970s San Francisco who has an affair with her mother’s boyfriend (Alexander Skarsgard). Her mother is played by Kristin Wiig.
Hot new comedian Amy Schumer’s movie Trainwreck, directed by Judd Apatow, is also in the Gala section.
The Into the Night section features cult films from around the world. One you don’t want to miss is Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The fantastical, visually stunning drama is about a female Iranian chador-wearing vampire. The movie, which is in Farsi but was filmed in California, is haunting, scary and wildly original.
Amirpour has been dubbed the “female Tarantino.”
The Jewish Experience program includes Richard Trank’s Our Boys, which examines the events surrounding the kidnapping and murders of Gilad Shaer, Naftali Fraenkel and Eyal Yifrach last year. In the film, the parents of each boy remember their sons and talk about the aftermath of the tragedy. The director and the boys’ families will attend the screening.
In Magnus Gertten’s film Every Face Has a Name, concentration camp survivors and resistance fighters who appeared in newsreels at the end of World War II look at and comment on the footage 70 years later.
The Debuts section features Cesar Acevedo’s Land and Shade, which won the Camera d’Or Prize for Best First Feature at Cannes, tells the story of a troubled family struggling to survive while working on sugar cane plantations. This film is one of about 20 movies from Latin America in the festival this year.
The In the Spirit of Freedom Award is a program devoted to films that focus on human rights and is given in memory of Wim van Leer, Lia van Leer’s husband. Among the films competing this year is Anat Goren’s Mussa, a look at a mute boy living in Israel whose parents are African refugees.
The Panorama section features the best of contemporary cinema from around the world. Alice Rohrwacher, the director of Corpo Celeste, will be a guest of the festival. She is also on the jury of the Israeli film competition. Corpo Celeste tells the story of an Italian family moving home after a decade in Switzerland.
Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, one of the most buzzed-about films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, tells the bizarre, allegorical story of a society in which all single people have 45 days to find a partner or be turned into an animal of their choice.
Run, the story of a political assassin in the Ivory Coast, was developed by its director, Philippe Lacote, at the Jerusalem Film Lab, sponsored by the Sam Spiegel School of Film and Television, Jerusalem.
The Masters section features In the Basement, the latest film by Ulrich Seidl, who will be a guest of the festival and will give a master class with his longtime collaborator, actress Maria Hofstatter.
Other movies in this section include Terrence Malick’s Knight of Cups, starring Christian Bale and Natalie Portman; Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s visually stunning The Assassin, the story of a female martial artist; Mohsen Makhmalbaf’s The President, about an ousted dictator who hides out among the people he oppressed; and Hal Hartley’s Ned Rifle, the final chapter in his Henry Fool trilogy.
A section of restored classics will include The Tales of Hoffmann, the gorgeous Michael Powell/Emeric Pressburger musical starring Moira Shearer, which will be screened as a tribute to Aviva Meirom, van Leer’s longtime right-hand woman, who passed away in 2014.
There will be a tribute to the late groundbreaking documentary film director Albert Maysles. He is best known for the films he made with his brother, David Maysles, such as Grey Gardens, a revealing portrait of relatives of Jacqueline Onassis who fell on hard times, which will be shown. Several of the brothers’ other films will be screened, among them the rarely shown A Journey to Jerusalem, made with Michael Mindlin Jr.
Albert’s solo works will be shown as well, including Iris, his final film, a portrait of flamboyant 93-year-old style maven Iris Apfel.
The Cinemania section is devoted to movies about filmmakers. These films include By Sidney Lumet, a look at the acclaimed American director who made such films as 12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon and Network, which will be presented by Lumet’s daughter, Amy Lumet; This is Orson Welles, about the genius who directed Citizen Kane at the age of 25; and Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, which features interviews with her daughter, Isabella Rossellini, and other family members and colleagues.
A section of children’s films, among them Hiromasa Yonebayashi’s When Marnie Was There, the final anime film made at the legendary Studio Ghibli, will be shown.
The festival includes free outdoor screenings, musical events, a pitching event and much more.For more information and to buy tickets, go to www.jff.org.il.