kids walking 311.
(photo credit: courtesy)
The most ambitious film festival in Israel may well be the Cinema South Festival (Kolnoa Drom), which opens at the Sderot Cinematheque on May 30 and runs through June 3. The very concept of opening a cinematheque in Sderot seemed like an eccentric idea when this theater started in 2002. There were no regular movie theaters in the Negev at the time, and skeptics wondered how a theater dedicated to quality cinema would find an audience. But the Sderot Cinematheque, which was developed in a partnership with Sapir College, not only lasted but it has thrived, even during the Kassam rocket barrages of the past few years.
Nine years ago, Sapir College developed the Cinema South Festival. It’s never easy to organize a film festival, but the Cinema South’s management has faced some unique challenges. Although the city was hit by a damaging rocket attack on opening day in 2004, for example, the festival went on as planned, with guest of honor Richard Gere on hand. Then-mayor Eli Moyal presented Gere with some shards of the rockets that fell on the city at the opening ceremony.
The opening film of the 2004 Cinema South Festival was Avi Nesher’s
Turn Left at the End of the World
, his first Israeli
film in years after a period of living abroad. That film, which went on
to become the biggest hit film in Israel (other films have outearned it
abroad), looked at a girl from India who moves with her family to an
isolated development town in the Negev. The film very much captured and
celebrated the determination of the Sderot Cinematheque’s founders,
Noam Peretz, Elad Pereg and Prof. Haim Bereshit of Sapir College. It’s
fitting that Nesher’s latest movie, Once I Was
be the closing attraction this year. The film is a coming-of-age story
set in 1968 about a boy who works for a matchmaker (Adir Miller) who is
a Holocaust survivor. It also stars Eli Yatzpan, Dror Keren and Maya
The opening night film will be The Guide to the
, a documentary by Doron Tsabari and Ori Inbar, an
autobiographical film based on episodes in Tsabari’s life.
This year, the festival will feature three main sections: new
international cinema from Armenia, the Philippines and Latin America;
new Israeli cinema focusing on social issues; and films by students and
recent graduates of Sapir College.
Among the highlights of the Israeli premieres will be Avishai Sivan’s
, which is in competition at Cannes this
year and tells the story of a tormented young yeshiva student.
The festival will feature a tribute to veteran Israeli actor and
director Ze’ev Revach, who starred in such classics as Charlie
and a Half
. Five of the films Revach directed will be shown
in the festival, including A Stroke of Luck
. Many cinema enthusiasts feel that Revach’s
talent has never been honored as it should, perhaps because he played
mainly in comedies, many of which have a subtext of genuine social
This year, there will be a prize of NIS 50,000 awarded to beginning
Israeli directors in the categories of documentary film and
Among the guests from abroad will be Filipino director Brillante
Mendoza; award-winning Armenian documentary filmmaker Harutyn
Khachatryan; and Mexican director Natalia Almada. Films by each guest
will be shown, including Mendoza’s Lola and Kinatay
and Return of the
, and Almada’s The General
Prof. Avner Faingulernt, the head of the Cinema and Television Arts
Department at Sapir College and one of the festival’s directors, says,
“At the Cinema South Festival, we are bringing the voices of the ‘poor’
to the center of social and cultural dialogue.”
There have been times when the Sderot Cinematheque has had to shut down
temporarily due to rocket attacks. In 2007, the festival was moved to
Netivot due to the Kassam barrages, but this year it will take place in
its usual home. To get more information on the festival or to purchase
tickets, go to the cinematheque’s Web site at www.sderot-cin.org.il.
Even if you don’t plan to attend, it’s hard not to wish the best to
this festival and its organizers.