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(photo credit: Courtesy of DocAviv)
Many of the films at this year's Docaviv, the international documentary film festival that will run from March 30-April 8 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, will have audiences tapping their toes and leaving the theater humming. That's because among the approximately 70 documentaries that will be screened, there will be several programs devoted to films about music and musicians.
In addition to these musical films, the annual Israeli and international competitions will proceed as usual, as well as competitions for youth and student films, and various special screenings and tributes to master directors. There will also be 10 panels and Master Classes featuring local and visiting filmmakers. Music lovers will enjoy several evenings of free outdoor performances by local artists in the plaza outside the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
An homage to Canadian filmmaker Larry Weinstein will also be a feature of this year's DocAviv. One of the leading directors in the world on musical subjects, Weinstein will lead a Master Class at the festival.
Weinstein uses music to explore both the creative lives of composers and musicians and the world in which they live and work, including the art, literature and politics of the period. The planned program includes several of his films, including Ravel's Brain, the story of the "Bolero" composer who suffered from a brain disease late in life. By examining Ravel's illness and treatment, Weinstein explores the beginnings of neurosurgery in Europe.
The War Symphonies: Shostakovich Against Stalin examines the relationship between Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich and Stalin, and discusses whether the tension between them helped or hurt his music. Beethoven's Hair, Weinstein's most recent work, looks at some eccentric music lovers who actually manage to purchase a lock of the composer's hair. The film tracks the voyage of that hair from 19th century Vienna to various parts of Europe, before ending up in 21rst century Arizona.
A number of special screenings are devoted to films about world music. These include Beijing Bubbles - Rock and Punk in the Chinese Capital, a look at five rock bands trying to survive in a country where more saccharine pop music dominates. To Tulsa and Back: On Tour with J.J. Cale follows the legendary rocker, and details a recent collaboration with Eric Clapton.
In addition to the Master Class with Weinstein, directors Kirby Dick, best known for such controversial films as Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan Super Masochist, and Serge Lalou, director of Claire's Notebooks, a look at the life of his mother and their relationship, will hold Master Classes.
As was true last year, the Israeli films in competition offer both politics and a wide variety of other topics. Two of the more political entries are Yoav Shamir's 5 Days, which tracks the evacuation of settlers from the Gaza Strip last summer and Tal Hakim's Tali Fahima - Crossing the Lines, a look at the trial and jail term of Tali Fahima, a peace activist convicted of aiding a terrorist.
Shlomo Hazan's Film Zealot, on the other hand, is a portrait of Yehuda Grovais, one of the founders of the growing ultra-Orthodox movie industry. Shadya by Roy Westler looks at a 17-year-old Muslim girl from a village in Northern Israel who is a champion in karate, in spite of opposition from her brothers.
The International Competition is no less varied. Four of the films in competition focus on Africa (as well as several in the out-of-competition screenings). These include Sisters In Law, an unusually upbeat look three women in Kumba Cameroon who work in the justice system - a judge, a policewoman and a prosecutor - and how they use their power to advance the cause of women's rights. Lost Children, on the other hand, focuses on children drafted into militias on the Sudanese-Ugandan border. A panel discussion led by Dror Foyer, the editor of the magazine, Masa Acher, will examine the issues raised by the African films in the festival.
Other international offerings include Songbirds, the story of a group of inmates in a British women's prison who use musical theater to help them cope with their pain and The Giant Buddhas,w about the bombings by the Taliban of Giant Buddha statues in Bamiyan in 2001.
For more details and to order tickets, call 03-606-0800, extension 0, or go to the festival Website at www.docaviv.co.il You can view trailers from some of the festival films at www.docmovies.com Don't think that because it's a documentary festival, screenings don't sell out - they do. So if there is a particular film you're interested in, order as early as possible, because more and more moviegoers are learning that documentaries are often the most dramatic and satisfying movies these days.