The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival, which opened Thursday night and runs through July 20 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, with 200 films from over 50 countries, features movies and events that are fun, serious and engaging on many levels.
The work of festival guest Spike Jonze (ne Adam Spiegel) always generates a great deal of excitement, and his master class at the festival, which will be held on Wednesday, is sure to be especially fun. Jonze, who won an Oscar this year for Best Screenplay for Her, a serious and comic film about a man who falls in love with his computer’s operating system, has made bizarre and funny films in the past two decades, among them Being John Malkovich (which will be shown at the festival), Adaptation, and Where the Wild Things Are. Other master classes include ones with director Ulrich Seidl and actress Maria Hofstätter of Import/Export; Park Chan-wook, who is presenting his latest film, Stoker, at the festival and is best known for Oldboy, which will be shown at the festival as well; and Martina Gedeck, the actress who starred in The Lives of Others.
Tonight, David Mamet, who is attending the festival with his director/actress daughter Clara, will read his suspenseful, moving and funny novella The Handle and the Hold aloud at the Jerusalem Cinematheque Mediatheque at 7 p.m.
In an interview last week, Mamet called the experience of reading his unproduced screenplay, Russian Poland, at the 2002 Jerusalem Film Festival “one of the highlights of my career,” so he will surely pour his heart into this reading.
Festivals are a great place to see wonderful movies that may not make it into commercial theaters. Short Term 12, directed by Destin Daniel Cretton, is a rewarding indie drama about a young woman (Brie Larson) and her boyfriend (John Gallagher Jr. of the TV series, The Newsroom), who work together in a facility for emotionally disturbed teens.
Lola Bessis and Ruben Amar directed Swim Little Fish Swim, an engaging comedy about a young French artist trying to break into the New York art scene, which will be screened in the presence of the directors.
Among the dozens of strong feature films at the festival, there are quite a few from Latin America this year. Mariana Rondón’s Bad Hair, a Venezuelan film that has been a festival favorite around the world, is about a single mother coping with a young son whom she suspects is gay. The Amazing Catfish, a film from Mexico by Claudia Sainte- Luce, is a warm story of a lonely young woman who finds herself adopted by an ailing mother who needs help with her four children. It won raves at the recent Critics’ Preview here a few weeks ago.
There will be a special program of recent British films. These include ’71, a movie by Yann Demange about a British soldier in Belfast at the height of the conflict in Northern Ireland. Kevin MacDonald, who directed The Last King of Scotland, is back with The Way I Live Now, starring Saoirse Ronan, about a young New Yorker sent to live with relatives in rural England.
There are a number of films that those interested in the arts and the intelligentsia won’t want to miss.
Martin Scorsese and David Tedeschi’s The 50 Year Argument explores the history of the influential publication, The New York Review of Books.
Afternoon of a Faun: Tanaquil Le Clercq, directed by Nancy Buirski, is a portrait of a legendary ballerina for the New York City Ballet who contracted polio at the age of 27.
Regarding Susan Sontag, directed by Nancy Kates, is an examination of the life of this celebrated critic, photographer, philosopher and novelist.
Watchers of the Sky, directed by Edet Belzberg, is one of the highlights of the In the Spirit of Freedom competition, held each year in memory of Wim van Leer, Jerusalem Film Festival founder Lia van Leer’s late husband. The film is a portrait of the activist lawyer Raphael Lemkin, who is credited with coining the term, “genocide.” The film is being screened next week at the Knesset as well.
Go to the festival website at jff.org.il to buy tickets and to get the details of the many special events, including free, open-air screenings and children’s films.