Fans of the Dude to hit the lanes

It was bound to happen, but not on Shabbos. The first known Israeli Lebowksi Fest is taking place next week in Jerusalem, naturally at a bowling alley in Talpiot.

By
June 8, 2011 21:54
4 minute read.
Jeff Bridges and Jack Kehler

Lebowski 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Hey, all you urban achievers. If you believe the Dude abides, if your favorite drink is a White Russian, if you don’t roll on Shabbos, if you know a bowling alley that serves sarsaparilla, and if you have any idea what I’m talking about, then get ready – the first Lebowski Fest in Israel, which will take place on June 16 at Jerusalem Bowling in the Lev Talpiot Mall in Jerusalem at 8 p.m., will make your most devoted Big Lebowski fan dreams come true.

For those who are quite confused right now, The Big Lebowski is a Coen brothers movie, and Lebowski Fest is a big party that celebrates the film.

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Lebowski Festivals have been held all over the US (and one in England), but this festival’s founder, Eliyahu Sidikman, bills this as “the first Lebowski Fest in the Eastern Hemisphere.”

Sidikman, a musician who writes historical fiction and a longtime Israeli originally from Long Island, decided to put together the festival because, “I have a lot of friends who are Lebowski freaks, both Americans and native Israelis.”

“Of course, many attendees will be Anglos, but there is definitely an indigenous Lebowski cult.”

While he doesn’t claim to be a Lebowski expert himself, “I enjoy the movie tremendously. The appeal of the movie is so vast for so many different reasons.”

For those who are aficionados, the Fest will feature a trivia quiz, and believe me, it’s challenging (Sidikman asked me a few sample questions – even the most devoted fan will have to see the movie again to have any hope of winning).



A little background on the film: Released in 1998, it tells the story of Jeff (the Dude) Lebowski, a supremely confident, laid-back LA type (played by Jeff Bridges) who pals around with a loud, Shabbat-observing Vietnam veteran (John Goodman) and a clueless surfer (Steve Buscemi).

Through a case of mistaken identity, the Dude gets involved in the case of the kidnapping of Bunny, the 20- something wife of an elderly billionaire also named Jeffrey Lebowski (the Big Lebowski of the title). Add to the mix a satanic bowler/paroled pedophile named The Jesus (John Turturro), the Big Lebowski’s performance artist daughter (Julianne Moore), a porn film mogul named Jackie Treehorn (Ben Gazzara), and three German nihilists/rock musicians who keep a marmot as a pet, add the Coen brothers’ gift for unforgettable lines, and you’ve got a hilarious and suspenseful movie.

It initially received mixed reviews but has amassed an insanely loyal following and is arguably the most beloved cult movie of the last two decades. A tradition has sprung up all through the US of staging Lebowski festivals (or fests) at bowling alleys, since that is the Dude’s preferred game. People drink White Russians, the Dude’s favorite (indeed, his only) drink, bowl, and watch screenings of the film. Jeff Bridges made an appearance at the Los Angeles festival with his band, but generally they feature only loyal fans (who call themselves Achievers or Urban Achievers after a significant line in the movie).

FORTUITOUSLY, THE Coen brothers were just in Israel last month to collect their Dan David Prize, an award of $1 million, at Tel Aviv University, and were asked about the Lebowski Fest phenomenon. After a pause, Ethan answered, “We don’t know what to make of it. We haven’t done anything to encourage it... we don’t have any financial interest in it.”

Part of what has endeared the film to Israelis is the character of Walter, the high-strung John Goodman character, raised Polish Catholic, who converted to Judaism to please his exwife, Cynthia. The film, which had its Israeli premiere when it opened the 1998 Jerusalem Film Festival, drew cheers at that first screening when, in an early scene, Walter began quoting Herzl (“If you will it, Dude, it is no dream”) and threw a tantrum when he learned he was scheduled to bowl on a Saturday, screaming, “I’m shomer f***ing shabbos!” Sidikman, who shares Walter’s religious outlook, said this is the reason that the festival would not be held on a Friday.

Lia van Leer, the founding director of the Jerusalem Film Festival and the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which just featured a Coen brothers retrospective, has been invited to say a few words about bringing the film to Israel.

It’s NIS 60 for entrance to the screening and NIS 90 to participate in the bowling tournament. All attendees receive a free beverage, i.e. a White Russian. The Facebook page promises Lingonberry pancakes – the Nihilists’ snack of choice. In addition to the trivia contest, there will a costume contest.

The film’s soundtrack, which includes Bob Dylan’s “The Man in Me,” the Gipsy Kings’ Spanish-language version of “Hotel California,” and Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Lookin’ Out My Back Door,” will be performed by the Urban Achievers band, which specializes in Creedence, the Dude’s favorite.

If you are interested in the US version of Lebowski Fest (which has no official connection to the Israeli event) you can check it out at lebowskifest.com Short-sighted Israelis sometimes complain that life in the capital is no fun, but if they want to be at Lebowski Fest, they will have to make the trek to Jerusalem, where they can expect to see a couple of hundred fans dressed as characters from the film.

In the meanwhile, take ’er easy.

To reserve tickets, send an e-mail to lebowskifestisrael@gmail.com or go to the fest Facebook page at www.facebook.com/#!/profile.php?id=100 002318569754


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