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Manhattan's Tribeca Film Festival, which opened earlier this week and runs through May 7, will be showing several films from Israel. Since the festival began in 2002, Israeli films have been among the most popular and have picked up a number of important prizes. Eytan Fox's Yossi & Jagger, initially made on a shoestring budget as a television film, got a theatrical release in the US at least partly due to the fact that Ohad Knoller, who played Yossi, won the Best Actor Award at Tribeca in 2003. Arna's Children, a documentary about a theater group for Palestinian children in the West Bank, co-directed by actor Juliano Mer Khamis (whose mother, Arna, ran the group) and Danniel Danniel, won the Best Documentary Award at Tribeca in 2004. Even when they didn't take home prizes, Israeli films have generated a great deal of interest at Tribeca. Showings of Gidi Dar's Ushpizin, the movie about ultra-Orthodox life with a cast of religious actors, caused a sensation last year and screenings were mobbed. This year, the feature film, Close to Home, the story of two female soldiers serving in Jerusalem during the current intifada, directed by Vidi Bilu and Dalia Hager, will be screened. Also on this year's program is Dear Father, Quiet Please, We're Shooting," a documentary by David Benchetrit about IDF soldiers who have become conscientious objectors. Two short films from Israel will be shown, "The Substitute" (which was known as "Soldier Girl" when it was shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival), about the relationship between a suicidal soldier and her roommate, played by Dana Ivgy; and "Offside," the story of a Palestinian boy who has difficulty joining his friends for a soccer game because of the separation fence.
The Tribeca Film Festival is far less staid than the New York Film Festival, which features only about 30 films and does not award prizes. Tribeca will show over 160 feature films, as well as 99 shorts, and its lineup includes such Hollywood films as Mission Impossible III starring Tom Cruise and Poseidon, a remake of The Poseidon Adventure, with Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss. Tribeca has an extremely festive atmosphere, with screenings all over New York City and dozens of special programs. Its style and programming resembles the big European festivals, such as Cannes, more than the New York Film Festival.
WHO KNEW that movie pioneers Thomas Edison and the Lumiere brothers both visited the Holy Land (separately) in the 1890s and made very brief films? You can see these rarely shown movies on a program of very early silents at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Sunday at 7:30 p.m. The Lumiere footage includes a voyage from Istanbul to Jaffa, a journey by rail to Jerusalem, and a visit to the Jaffa Gate. The normally restrained writer of the cinematheque's program guide describes it as "breathtaking." Edison's film features Jewish and Arab folk dances as well as a look at the market in Jaffa.
Other very early shorts of Jewish interest on the program include D.W. Griffith's 1908 Romance of a Jewess, a melodrama, and Cohen's Fire Sale, a comedy about Mr. Cohen, who must find a lost package of hats.
The program also features other early films by the Lumieres and Edison, as well as the screen's first Western, the 8-minute 1903 film by Edwin S. Porter, The Great Train Robbery, which ends with a close-up of a robber shooting at the camera, which once upon a time caused audiences to scream in terror.
THE INDIE film, Thumbsucker, the satiric story of a 16-year-old who still has a childish bad habit, will have its Israeli premiere at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. Lou Pucci, who plays the lead, has collected prizes all over the world, including the Silver Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and a special Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Tilda Swinton co-stars as the boy's mother.
Line of the Week: Kyle Smith, of the New York Post, writes in his review of the underage-sex-and-torture film, Hard Candy: "Talking about the wit in this film is like talking about the color of the seats on the train that hit you."