Tel Aviv has always been the center of the Israeli movie industry – until now.
In the last few years, more movies have been made that do not focus on the Tel
Aviv area or any of Israel’s other large cities. Stories of a different Israel
that were never put on film before have been reaching the screen, slowly but
surely. And now, to celebrate and help develop this recent trend, a series of
films made in the periphery of the country will be shown in Tel Aviv, free of
This series, called Cinema Meets Reality, is sponsored by Bank
Benleumi, and the screenings will be held in the bank’s Culture and Community
auditorium at 42 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
The first screening in
this series will be held on February 7 at 8 p.m. The film to be shown is Ran
Tal’s The Garden of Eden. Tal won the Best Documentary Director Award at the
2012 Jerusalem Film Festival (arguably, the most competitive category at the
festival, which also included the Oscarnominated The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken
Cameras) for The Garden of Eden. His previous film, Children of the Sun, about
child-rearing on kibbutzim, won great acclaim when it was released.
Garden of Eden is the story of the Sahne National Park (Gan Hashlosha), one of
the most beautiful parks in Israel. Located near Beit She’an, it attracts a
crosssection of Israeli society, and these are shown in the film: elderly
kibbutz members who live nearby and begin their days at 6 a.m. with a swim in
the springs; Arab families from up North who picnic there; groups of former
Soviet Union immigrants who visit the park at night to eat, drink and swim “just
like they did back in the homeland.” Soldiers visit the park while on their
military service. Tourists from all over the world stop off there to and
from the Sea of Galilee.
Says Tal, “I spent my childhood not far from Gan
Hashlosha/Sahne. The five kilometers between the kibbutz where I grew up
and the park were very short. Whole summers I spent in the magical pools there.
I knew every path and every cave. . . [With the years] many things began to
change. One day they added a gate and after that a fence, and then immediately
they began to charge admission. Also the many swimmers who arrived looked
different, spoke differently, and even their food was different. We felt
we had been expelled from paradise.”
The film focuses on the stories of
several people who work at and visit the park, such as a Jewish man whose wife
has left him, a Palestinian who hasn’t found what he is looking for in Israel or
abroad, an Israeli woman who has fled an abusive relationship, and a man who is
mourning the death of his brother.
Garden of Eden shows a side of Israel
that is a daily reality for many. While much of Israel is urban today, nature
and agriculture are usually only a short drive away. For years, though, Israeli
cinema spotlighted only the cities, and Tel Aviv far more than even Jerusalem or
Haifa. The series curator, author and journalist Yael Shuv, said that the films
screened in the series are about places “where there is still fresh soil and
people go out walking, not only with their house pets but with also with other
animals. These films describe various relationships between people and their
environments, and their neighbors here and there, as the pines change with the
time of day and the seasons of the year.”
Bank Benleumi’s Cinema Meets
Reality festival is just part of the bank’s initiative to encourage and
highlight the development of culture outside the large urban areas and to create
a national dialogue by bringing that culture to Tel Aviv. There will also be
free concerts, theater and art events in the future at the Culture and Community
Auditorium in Tel Aviv.
Free and open to the public, but pre-registration
is mandatory. For more information and to reserve seats for the The Garden of
Eden screening, call (03) 513-0001.