Cinefile: Searching for a good flick

Israeli cinema continues to flourish at home and abroad, so what are the films to look forward to in the coming months?

April 9, 2010 22:26
3 minute read.

haredi. (photo credit: .)


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Israeli films continue to win prizes around the world, this time as far away as South Africa. At the Third Cape Winelands Film Festival in Cape Town last week, Haim Tabakman’s Eyes Wide Open took the Grand Prix. This increasingly prestigious festival draws juries and audiences from around the world and it’s quite competitive. Eyes Wide Open, the story of a haredi butcher who struggles with his homosexual leanings, has already opened in the US, to mixed but generally favorable reviews. Kyle Smith in the New York Post called it “a sort of Brokeback Menachem.”

Last summer and fall, an amazing crop of films opened at the Jerusalem and Haifa Film Festivals – Eyes Wide Open, Ajami, Lebanon, and 5 Hours from Paris. When a director here makes a celebrated film, he generally spends most of the next year promoting it: Going with it to film festivals around the world and doing publicity if it opens theatrically abroad. So we won’t see anything new from these directors for a while. Ari Folman, the director of the Oscar-nominated animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, is at work on his latest film, an adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel, The Futurological Congress. The film’s title has reportedly been shortened to The Congress, and the focus has been changed from a hero who is suddenly propelled into a world where everyone is controlled by hallucinogenic drugs, to the story of a struggling actress, played by Robin Wright. The film, which combines live action (in the present-day sequences) and animation (in the future sections), tells how the actress, whose image has been appropriated by filmmakers but can’t find work, finds herself in the future, drug-addled reality.

The complex story seems well suited to Folman, and rather than make a conventional English-language film in Hollywood, he seems wise to play to his strengths, mixing his trademark realistic but stylized animation with live action. Wright, recently divorced from Sean Penn, is a wonderful actress who has never gotten the roles her talent deserves. The first image to be released from The Congress can be viewed on several Web sites, including at

Other Israeli filmmakers are working on new films, but they may not be ready for awhile. Eran Kolirin, director of The Band’s Visit, is making a movie about a man who starts spending more time alone and finds himself detached from reality. Avi Nesher, who made Turn Left at the End of the World and The Secrets, is finishing up a coming-of-age film about a Haifa boy who works for a Holocaust-survivor matchmaker in the Seventies. Beaufort director Joseph Cedar returns to his Jerusalem roots with a movie about the rivalry between university professors.

Besides homegrown movies, we can look forward to a film made here by Serbian director Emir Kusturica. The celebrated director, a frequent visitor to the area, told Variety he plans to make a comedy called Cool Water about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, starring Tahar Rahim, the star of the Oscar-nominated French film A Prophet. It will tell the story of two brothers, one to be played by Rahim, who try to smuggle the body of their father from Jerusalem to Ramallah, while keeping one step ahead of Israeli security forces and Russian mobsters.

It sounds like a typically dark comedy from the director of Black Cat, White Cat and Underground, who usually makes films about the absurdities underlying the conflict in the former Yugoslavia. Filming on Cool Water is set to start in the fall.

Calling all zombies: If you like a good zombie movie, here’s your chance to act in one that’s being made here. Eitan Reuven is shooting a zombie movie, called Another World, described as “the first-ever apocalyptic action/horror movie made in Israel.” And what’s a zombie movie without a whole crowd of the shuffling creatures? Later this month, he will need a cast of thousands for some big scenes. There will be a day of training and another day of shooting, along with a minimal fee (NIS 100) for your trouble, so if you are interested, contact him at Maybe a zombie flick of our own is just what Israel needs.

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