Little festival of wonders

Legendary filmmaker Roger Corman is one among the many draws of the International Tel Aviv Student Film Festival.

June 3, 2010 03:14
3 minute read.
Roger Corman

311_Roger Corman. (photo credit: JaSunni)


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One of the most exciting film festivals in Israel, the 13th International Tel Aviv Student Film Festival, takes place this year from June 5 to 13. Run by the film students of Tel Aviv University, it takes place once every two year. It is held mainly at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and features hundreds of films by both Israeli and international students filmmakers, as well as dozens of guests.

The International Competition is billed as the largest in the world. This year, it will feature 122 student films from 80 film schools in 40 countries, and includes feature films, documentaries, and experimental films. Although the idea of seeing student films may not sound enticing to audiences who are used to Hollywood product, I can tell you that I have seen wonderful films by students, and what they sometimes lack in polish, they tend to make up for in energy and audacity. The Israeli Competition, which generates a tremendous amount of interest since so many Israeli directors have gone to international success in recent years, will feature 31 films. The Adam Flint Award will be given for excellence in screenwriting, while the 20/10 Competition spotlights extremely short films – just 20 seconds long.

The most prominent guest this year is Roger Corman, a producer/director who is truly a legend in his time. The godfather of low-budget filmmaking, he has produced nearly 400 movies and directed dozens, all of them made on a shoestring. As a producer, he gave some of the world’s most important filmmakers their start as directors, including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, George Lucas, James Cameron and Peter Bogdanovich, and gave much-needed breaks to such actors as Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper. He perfected a kind of commando filmmaking, in which movies were shot at lightning speed, sets were always reused; and, if a film went on location, he would shoot enough footage for at least one other movie. The irony, of course, is that many of these low-budget films simply intended for making money became cult classics, notably the original Little Shop of Horrors and a series of films Corman made with Vincent Price based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. It’s hard to think of a man in Hollywood who has more to teach Israel’s young, cash-strapped filmmakers, and his workshops and lectures are sure to be well attended.

BUT CORMAN is just one of several guests. Filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who co-directed the landmark documentary The Celluloid Closet, a look at the image of gays and lesbians in Hollywood movies, are also attending. They will present their latest film, Howl, a drama about the obscenity trial of the young poet Allen Ginsberg, who is played by James Franco. Jon Hamm (of the television show Mad Men) and Mary-Louise Parker (who stars in Weeds) also act in the film. Epstein and Friedman will also give a master class for film students.

Part of the Romanian New Wave, Florin Serban will give workshops and will present his acclaimed debut film, If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle, which won the Silver Bear-Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin Film Festival. Artist and dj Simon Szabo of Hungary will be here with his award-winning film, Paper Planes.

French director Nathan Miller, who started his career as a child actor and worked with Francois Truffaut on The Wild Child, and later worked as an assistant director for his father, Claude Miller, will present his film I’m Glad My Mother is Alive.

Dozens of established Israeli filmmakers will take part in the festival, and several will teach workshops. Katriel Schory, a producer and the head of the Israel Film Fund, will give a class designed to teach students how to take the crucial steps to make their first film. Yaron Shani, one of the directors of the Oscar-nominated Ajami, will give a workshop on how to work with non-professional actors, a subject he knows well since the large cast of Ajami was composed almost solely of amateurs.  

Adding to the festive atmosphere will be premiere screenings of several new films including Toy Story 3, George Lucas’s first film, Dementia 13 – which Roger Corman produced – and recent films by all the festival guests.

To find out more and order tickets, go to

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