film good 88.
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The Show Went On: It's hard to imagine more adverse circumstances for putting on a film festival than the ones the organizers of the Sderot Film Festival of the South faced this year. Ultimately, because of the kassam barrages, they made the decision to move the festival to Netivot, and it was a success.
The truth is, that while there may have been more kassam rockets than usual lobbed at Sderot in recent months, it has never been an easy proposition to hold this film festival, just as it wasn't easy to set up the cinematheque there in the first place. In 2004, the day before actor Richard Gere was set to arrive at the Sderot festival for a master class, a kassam barrage caused serious damage in the industrial area, and if you've ever been to Sderot, you know that no part of the city is very far from any section. Gere, who proved himself to be a good sport and a brave soul, showed up as scheduled, and laughed as the mayor presented him with a piece of shrapnel from the kassams.
It's a tribute to the skills of the organizers that even this year, they managed to host a distinguished guest, Marcel Ophuls, arguably the world's most distinguished documentary filmmaker. His most famous achievement was the 1969 documentary about France under the Vichy Government, The Sorrow and the Pity, which stirred up a huge controversy in France when it was released. He has made many other critically acclaimed documentaries, including Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie. At a time when European intellectuals are organizing boycotts of Israel, it's always a welcome surprise when such a great artist chooses to come here to present his work. Kudos again to Avi Nesher, who chose to premiere his latest film, The Secrets, at the festival. The Secrets opens throughout Israel on Thursday.
There was some controversy several years ago about protests by disgruntled Sderot residents who said that the cinematheque there catered mostly to Sapir College students and other intellectuals, showing only high-brow films. The Sderot Cinematheque does show mainly classics and arthouse films, but it has always shown children's films and popular movies as well, just not all the time. I think that the residents who wanted more popular films should have had conversations with the owners of the country's major movie-house chains, Rav Chen and the Globus Group, about why they should open a multiplex theater in Sderot. The Sderot Cinematheque's founders - I remember interviewing the very young and optimistic Noam Peretz and Elad Peleg five years ago - were able to pull off the improbable feat of getting a cinematheque going in an area considered by much of Israel to be a dangerous backwater and one that was not seen by the major chains as commercially viable. The Sderot cinematheque's founders instituted all kinds of programs to teach filmmaking to young students and a documentary film discussion group for Sderot's retirees. The Sderot Cinematheque was not all things to all Sderot residents, but no cinematheque can be that, or to. And they have kept going for more than five years now, in the face of enormous obstacles. Occasionally, in the past few months, they have had to cancel a show or two, but that's it. Their achievement should be celebrated by all Israelis who love movies.
SPEAKING OF Nesher's The Secrets, you can see a preview screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque at 9:30 p.m. And if you'd like to see one of the most famous performances by Fanny Ardant, one of the stars of The Secrets, check out Francois Truffaut's The Woman Next Door (1981), at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. Gerard Depardieu plays her former lover who inadvertently becomes her neighbor, but what will stay with you is not the plot but Ardant's dramatic, distinctive beauty and screen presence.
THE TEL AVIV CINEMATHEQUE is having a special program of war films this month, with the somewhat enigmatic title, Secret of the Magic of War. Among the films showing are Marcel Ophuls' Memory of Justice (1976), a look at justice and responsibility in various wars. The New York Times wrote when it was released that it "expands the possibilities of the documentary motion picture in such a way that all future films of this sort will be compared to it." It's showing on Friday (June 8) at 4 p.m.