(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Eighth Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which runs this year from December 16-22, will host a big-name guest: Dutch-born Hollywood director Paul Verhoeven, who will attend a screening of his latest film, Black Book - a World War II drama. Verhoeven is best known for such mainstream megahits as the Arnold Schwarzenegger vehicle Total Recall; the movie that made Sharon Stone a star, Basic Instinct; and also had the dubious honor of directing Showgirls, the butt of 1,000 jokes. In his latest film, he returns to his native Holland to tell the story of Rachel Steinn (Carice van Houten), a Jewish singer in hiding who joins the Resistance and becomes involved in a complex web of intrigue. He has taken the movie to the festivals at Venice and Toronto, where it was well received.
Paul Verhoeven's son Michael Verhoeven, who directed The Nasty Girl, a memorable film about a young German determined to reveal the truth about the Nazi era in her town, will also be a guest. He'll be presenting his own latest work, the documentary The Unknown Soldier - a controversial film about war crimes committed by the Wehrmacht in World War II.
The festival will feature 40 films from all over the world, including the 1967 Israeli classic Three Days and a Child, based on the A. B. Yehoshua novella, and one of the first features directed by former actor and comedian (now ultra-Orthodox rabbi) Uri Zohar. Star Oded Kotler won the Best Actor Award at the Cannes Film Festival for his performance.
Special programs in the festival include a look at non-Jewish religious communities in Israel, and an evening devoted to young Russian filmmakers. The full schedule will be available on December 12.
LITTLE RED FLOWERS, the latest internationally acclaimed movie from China, is the Jerusalem Cinematheque's movie of the month. It is being shown at 5, 7:15, and 9:30 p.m. Sunday-Thursday and Saturdays at 9:30 p.m. until December 14. Directed by Zhang Yuan, it tells the story of a kindergarten boy who won't follow the school rules, gets into a conflict with his teacher, and challenges the school in every way he can. It's obviously a metaphor for pro-Democracy activists' struggles against the Chinese government; but since it involves a child and is set in an unspecified era, apparently the Fifties, it made it past the strict Chinese censors. Based on an autobiographical novel by Wang Shuo, the film has received rave reviews around the world. Variety calls it "utterly winning," and it generated a big buzz at the Sundance Film Festival last year. Several critics compared it favorably to Zero de Conduite, Jean Vigo's classic saga of school rebellion.
On Wednesday at 8 p.m. at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, you can see a film about a child in an earlier period of Chinese history, The King of Masks (1996). It's the story of a girl who poses as a boy in order to become a magician and mask maker's assistant. Directed by Tian-Ming Wu, it's a bittersweet, haunting movie, set in Szechuan in the Thirties.
SPEAKING OF SUNDANCE, Israeli films will be competing in two of the major categories at Sundance 2007, which takes place from January 18-28. It was no surprise that Dror Shaul's Sweet Mud, the kibbutz coming-of-age drama that won top prize at the Ophir Awards, will be part of the World Cinema Feature competition, since Shaul developed the film at a Sundance workshop. Not bad, considering he wasn't accepted to Jerusalem's Sam Spiegel Film School. In the World Cinema Documentary category, Shimon Dotan's Hot House (also known as Security Cases) is competing. A Canadian-Israeli co-production, it looks at Palestinian prisoners in Israel, and how prison has become a breeding ground for terrorists.
The Unbelievable Truth, the 1989 offbeat independent movie by Hal Hartley starring Adrienne Shelly (the actress-turned-director who was recently murdered in her New York office), is showing at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Monday at 7:30 p.m.
On Thursday at 7 p.m., you can see Trust, their second collaboration. These are two of the movies that jump-started the indie film movement that has transformed movies over the past two decades. Trust, a slightly darker work (and also more memorable), co-stars Martin Donovan, who plays Mary-Louise Parker's love interest on the cable drama Weeds.