States of Mind, a festival celebrating American independent film, will take place in Tel Aviv at the Lev Cinema from August 25 to 28. Sponsored by the US Embassy in Israel, it will also include screening events in Jerusalem, Haifa, Holon and Karmiel. The festival features the very best of recent independent film from the US.
It’s quite fitting that such a festival will take place here because in many respects, the US independent film movement, which got under way in the 1990s, has been a central inspiration for today’s Israeli filmmakers. Movies by such directors as the Coen brothers, Quentin Tarantino, Hal Hartley, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Alexander Payne and Wes Anderson have reshaped the movie-making landscape. They brought heart, intensity and humor back into an industry that was being hijacked by soulless bigbudget productions, and they came along just as Israeli filmmakers were acquiring professionalism and looking for direction.
The festival kicked off on August 22 with an invitation-only screening of What Maisie Knew, a contemporary version of Henry James’s ahead-of-its-time novel about a girl who is the focus of a bitter custody battle between two wealthy, narcissistic parents, directed by Scott McGhee and David Siegel. It stars Julianne Moore, Steve Coogan and Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood).
The rest of the festival gets under way on August 25 with the most intriguing in recent US indie cinema.
Jason Bateman and Hope Davis star in Henry Alex Rubin’s Disconnect, which features several interconnected stories of how different people’s lives are consumed by technology.
Peter Webber’s Emperor stars Matthew Fox (Lost) as the general responsible for deciding whether Japanese emperor Hirohito will be prosecuted for war crimes following World War II.
Under the Same Moon, directed by Ligiah Villalobos, tells the story of a Mexican maid living in the US whose son tries to cross the border to reunite with her.
Matt Creed’s Lily, starring Amy Grantham, is about a cancer patient who realizes her struggles don’t end when she is free of the disease.
Scott Glenn stars in Magic Valley, Jaffe Zin’s look at several people’s lives in a small Idaho town.
Matthew Porterfield’s Sky Hill tells the story of the bereaved family and friends of a young man who died suddenly. They gather to try to piece together his final days, and the film becomes a portrait of their working-class community.
Susan Rockefeller’s Mission of Mermaids is a short film that examines the director’s relationship with the ocean.
There are also a number of documentaries in the festival.
These include Katie Dellamaggiore’s Brooklyn Castle, which tells the story of a chess team in a Brooklyn high school in a poverty-stricken neighborhood that has won more national championships than any other.
They not only battle their competitors and struggle with difficulties in their home lives, but they also have to contend with budget cuts that threaten the existence of all extracurricular activities.
Celine Danhier’s Blank City follows the development of the independent movie scene in New York, featuring commentary by such downtown luminaries as Amos Poe and Ann Magnuson.
Barak Goodman’s Makers traces the rise of women’s power in American society through interviews with remarkable women such as Hillary Rodham Clinton, Ellen DeGeneres and Oprah Winfrey.
Tiffany Shlain’s Connected, which is part documentary, part memoir, is an examination of the director’s love-hate relationship with technology as she copes with a high-risk pregnancy and her father confronts brain cancer.
There will be a number of special programs and events for the public and for filmmakers. Katie Dellamaggiore will be present at a screening of her documentary Brooklyn Castle and will answer questions afterwards about children’s empowerment. There will also be programs that will examine the role of entrepreneurship in movie-making.
For more information on the films and programs and to order tickets, go to http://statesofminds.org/ A special free open-air screening of La Misma Luna, will take place at Karmiel’s park Saturday at 8:30 p.m.