Goodbye Bafana 224.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The full guest list for the Haifa Film Festival has just been released and the organizers have succeeded in attracting a very distinguished group of attendees. In addition to lifetime achievement honoree, Czech director Jiri Menzel, and French actress/director Sophie Marceau and her co-star Christopher Lambert, the famous Danish director Bille August will be on hand. August will present his latest film, Goodbye Bafana, which stars Joseph Fiennes and Dennis Haysbert and is based on the memoirs of Nelson Mandela's long-time prison guard. August is most famous for the historical drama, Pelle the Conqueror, the story of oppressed Danish immigrants to Sweden, which will also be screened at the festival. German director Volker Schlondorff (The Tin Drum) will present his latest film, Ulzhan, about a man on a quest in Central Asia. Other guests include Eva ZaoralovÃ¡, the artistic director of the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic, an invaluable contact for Israeli film professionals, and David Kaplan, an American director known for his short films, who has made his first feature, "Year of the Fish," which will be shown at the festival.
2007 will be remembered as the year when virtually any of the nominees for the Ophir Award could have won the prize, since they were (nearly) all of extremely high quality, and four out of five have already won awards at major film festivals. Now, a whole new crop of Israeli films will be premiering in theaters over the next few months and at the Haifa International Film Festival during the Succot holiday. It's never too early to try to figure out what to see and what to avoid, so here are a few tips on movies that will be opening soon. Raphael Nadjari's Tehilim, which screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival and was in the main competition at Cannes, will open here in about a week. It's an earnest film and one with an intriguing premise: An observant family in Jerusalem is turned upside down when the father suddenly disappears. His wife and sons have to go on with their lives without any clue to what has happened to him. Nadjari made the very strong Stones a few years ago, starring Assi Levy as a married woman whose lover is killed in a terror attack. Unfortunately, in spite of his affection for the characters and setting in Tehilim, it doesn't come to life. He wants us to experience the uncertainty with the family, but doesn't really shape the material and in the end we learn nothing about the father and little about the family he left behind.
WILD DOGS, written by Assi Dayan and directed by Arnon Zadok, will be showing at Haifa but has already had a few screenings, and it is the vilest film I have seen in at least ten years, maybe ever. It features every negative quality that used to be the hallmark of the Israeli film industry, combining gratuitous violence (especially several rape scenes) and clichÃ©d, lifeless characters, all of it placed in a Leftist context that is so bankrupt, facile and utterly out of touch with the actual lives and concerns of anyone in Israel, it could be a primer as to why the Left has, to a large degree, marginalized itself. Anyone who is not a first-degree relative of the director should avoid it.
SAYING SORRY: The 14th Street Y and the Jewish Community Project in New York sponsored a "Forgive Me" pre-Yom Kippur Filmathon, an idea that the cinematheques should try next year. It kicked off with the Israeli film, The Schwartz Dynasty, an interesting movie that looked at issues of repentance and religion with a light touch, and starred Yehuda Levy. Another film on the program was actually an episode of the HBO series Entourage that coincidentally aired here last week, "The Return of the King." It focuses on the character of ruthless agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven), who tries to clinch a deal by running back and forth between synagogues on Yom Kippur, since his more observant wife has confiscated his cell phones. While this column is dedicated to movies and not television, I have to admit that I sigh when I see that a screening is scheduled to coincide with a new episode of Entourage, a show that is smarter and funnier than 90 percent of the movies that come out.