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Coming of age
By HANNAH BROWN
07/03/2014
The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival raises the curtain on July 10.
 
The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival opens on July 10 and runs through July 20, mainly at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, and this year, now that the festival has passed the big 3-0 milestone, it has definitely come of age, featuring a cinematic heaven of serious, funny and fascinating movies.

Noa Regev, the CEO of the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the film festival, and Lia van Leer, the founder of the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the festival, pointed out that it’s a year that is especially rich in films by women.

“About 30 percent of the 200 films – from over 50 countries – that we’re showing are by women,” said Regev.

“The films are wonderful this year, and so are the guests,” said van Leer.

There are an extraordinary number of distinguished guests coming – check the program and you may find that the director of the film you’re seeing will be present, doing a Q & A session after the movie.

The high-profile guests include Spike Jonze, the writer-director of the Oscar-nominated Her (as well as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, and many other films) will give a master class at the festival. Pulitzer-Prize winning director-screenwriter-playwright David Mamet, last seen at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2002, is coming to read a new novella, The Handle and the Hold, as part of a spoken word component of the festival.

Park Chan-wook, the Korean director best known for Oldboy and a host of other cult films, will present his latest film, Stoker, a psychological thriller that stars Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman; Austrian director Ulrich Seidl, who made the acclaimed Paradise trilogy, and whose films, Dog Days and Import/Export will be shown; and actress Martina Gedeck, whose performance was one of the reasons The Lives of Others won the Best-Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2007. Her latest film The Wall will be screened.

The opening night screening, at the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater, will be Eran Riklis’s Dancing Arabs, based on some semi-autobiographical novels by Sayed Kashua. The film, which stars Michael Moshonov and Ali Suliman, focuses on a Palestinian who gets a scholarship to attend a prestigious Israeli school in Jerusalem.

The closing-night film will be Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, the latest animated film from this master storyteller, who has said it will be his last. There will be a retrospective of his films.

There will be a gala program of the best of cinema from all over the world, as well as sections devoted to new directors, documentaries, the Jewish Experience, classics, children’s films, outdoor events and much more.

One of the elements that has always made the Jerusalem Film Festival so special is the In the Spirit of Freedom competition in memory of Wim van Leer, the late husband of Lia van Leer. This year’s competition includes films from Mauritania, Turkey, the Ukraine and Ethiopia.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated programs of all are the Israeli competitions, the Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Feature Film and Van Leer Group Foundation Award for Best Israeli Documentary. In recent years, some of Israel’s greatest new directors have emerged from these competitions. This year, the feature film competition includes an unprecedented four films that premiered in competitions at the Cannes Film Festival this spring.

These four include Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz’s acclaimed, Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. It’s the third movie in their trilogy loosely based on the story of their parents’ marriage, which chronicles the inevitable breakup of the family. The first two installments were To Take a Wife and Shiva.

Keren Yedaya, whose 2004 film, Or, shared the Wolgin Award at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2004 and won the Camera d’Or at Cannes, is back with her latest, Away from His Absence, a film about incest.

Shira Geffen’s Self Made was shown at Cannes and generated quite a bit of buzz there. It’s the story of two women, one Israeli and one Palestinian, who find a way to switch identities. Her previous film, Jellyfish, also won the Camera d’Or at Cannes.

Nadav Lapid’s Policeman just opened in the US, and his latest film, The Kindergarten Teacher, tells the story of an inspiring teacher who loves her pupils but struggles in her personal life.

There are several films in the Israeli feature competition other than the Cannes four. Red Leaves, directed by Bezzi Getta, is about an Ethiopian widower who divides his time among his children and focuses on a community we haven’t seen much on the big screen.

The Israeli documentary competition, which in 2012 included two films – 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers – that went on to receive Oscar nominations, is equally promising. One documentary that is sure to have broad appeal is Hilla Medalia’s The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films, the story of Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, two Israeli cousins who went Hollywood and created the Cannon Group, producing such Israeli and international hits as Operation Thunderbolt, The Delta Force, Barfly and literally hundreds more.

The Jewish Experience, an especially rich section this year, features both rare documentaries and contemporary feature films.

Audiences looking for laughs are advised to see Alan Zweig’s When the Jews Were Funny, a history of Jewish comedy.

The international films include Clint Eastwood’s latest, Jersey Boys, an adaptation of the hit Broadway show. Scarlett Johansson, plays an alien who assumes the shape of a beautiful woman in Scotland and lures men to their deaths in Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin. Jenny Slate plays a stand-up comedian faced with an unplanned pregnancy in Gillian Robespierre’s Obvious Child. Jesse Eisenberg stars in Night Moves, a film about environmentalists planning industrial sabotage. Frank is Lenny Abrahamson’s bizarre comedy about a rock musician (Michael Fassbender) who always wears a mask.

It’s been 50 years since the release of Ephraim Kishon’s classic comic masterpiece about Sephardi immigrants to Israel, Sallah Shabati, and there will be a screening to honor this milestone.

Other classics from the archives will be screened, among them, Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause, Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas.

To get more details, and to order tickets, go to www.jff.org.il. Many screenings sell out, so don’t wait till the festival opens to buy your tickets.
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