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The Tribeca Film Festival is on now and won't end until Sunday. Since the festival is massive, it's too early to predict how the Israeli films will fare. So far, most of the buzz hasn't been about particular films but over the fact that the festival has gotten too large, too unfocused and too expensive. Writing in the New York Post, Lou Lumenick criticizes festival founders and directors - actor Robert De Niro and producer Jane Rosenthal - for raising ticket prices on most evening screenings to $18, with some as high as $25 per ticket. And that's in spite of $12 million in corporate sponsorship deals.
While it's true that big Hollywood productions such as Spiderman 3 don't premiere at the Jerusalem or Haifa film festivals, our two biggest compare favorably in terms of quality and variety to those at Tribeca - or any other festival in the world. And tickets for ours are in the NIS 30-39 range. Even for the opening-night programs, tickets cost only about NIS 50, and many discounts are available for Cinematheque members, Orange phone service subscribers and others. So the affordable prices here, which is surely part of the reason that such a large percentage of audiences are in their twenties, is yet another impressive aspect of the Israeli movie scene.
ONCE TRIBECA ends, it's only a week and a half until Cannes begins. Israeli films have wracked up an amazing record there in the past few years, including the Camera d'Or prize in 2004 for Keren Yedaya's Or and the Best Actress Award in 2005 for Hanna Laslo in Amos Gitai's Free Zone.
It's always hard to predict how things will go at Cannes, but with movies from such high-profile Cannes favorites as Wong Kar Wai, the Coen Brothers, Wim Wenders, Quentin Tarantino, Gus Van Sant and Emir Kusturica, it would seem unlikely that Israel's entry, Raphael Nadjari's Tehilim, will take home any big trophies.
Nadjari, a French director married to Israeli/French actress Sarah Adler (Year Zero), enjoys working in Israel with Hebrew-speaking casts. In 2004, he made Stones, set in Tel Aviv, which won awards around the world. It was an interesting movie, featuring outstanding performances by Assi Levy (Aviva My Love) and Uri Gavriel (What a Wonderful Place) about a confused married woman, very much dominated by her father, whose life begins to fall apart when her lover is killed in a terror attack and she can't tell anyone about her loss. It's definitely worth renting if you missed it the first time around (there were so many terrific Israeli films in 2004, including Campfire, Walk on Water, The Syrian Bride and Turn Left at the End of the World that Stones got lost in the shuffle).
Nadjari and Tehilim may end up surprising us at Cannes yet. The president of the jury for the Main Competition this year is director Stephen Frears (The Queen, My Beautiful Laundrette). He has visited Israel several times, including in 2001, the year that so many frightened artists cancelled their trips here. Of course, having a director open-minded enough to spend time in Israel doesn't guarantee that our films will win anything, but it couldn't hurt.
THE MOVIE of the month for the first half of May at the Jerusalem Cinematheque is Reign Over Me. Directed by Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger), it stars Adam Sandler as a man who lost his family in the 9/11 terror attacks. When he runs into his college roommate (Don Cheadle), whom he hasn't seen in years, he begins to come to terms with the grief he has been suppressing.
You might not be thrilled at the idea of Adam Sandler starring in a movie about the aftermath of 9/11, and neither was New Yorker film critic Anthony Lane, but he was pleasantly surprised, writing: "I cannot remember laughing at a single scene of his comedies, but here, for once, his chosen persona - the slurring and disconnected goofball - makes sense."