Springboards for thought

This year's DocAviv brings a plethora of film, both Israeli and international, as well as student offerings and talks on filmmaking to Tel Aviv.

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May 5, 2009 11:21
3 minute read.
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It's been a festive spring so far in Tel Aviv as the city celebrates its centennial, and this year's DocAviv, the international documentary film festival that takes place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque from May 7-16, promises to be especially lively. Films will also be shown at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the ZOA House and the Tel Aviv Port. Among the special events planned during the festival, which features more than 50 films from Israel and abroad, will be April in Tel Aviv, a screening of a new film by French director Paul Ouazan (sponsored by the ARTE network). Ouazan's film looks at the cultural side of the city and features interviews with Tel Aviv residents and artists, including Rona Kenan, Avirama Golan, Idan Raichel, Avishai Cohen, Vardi Cahana and Matti Caspi. The director will be present following the screening. At another event, "Tel Aviv, French Version," Ouazan will be joined by Mayor Ron Huldai and Jean-Michel Casa, the French ambassador to Israel. They will head a panel discussion on the occasion of the book, Tel Aviv Sans Repit by Ami Buganim. Ruth Kalderon, the founder of Alma, an institute for Jewish study, Dori Manor, a poet, and architect Hillel Shoken will be also participate, and there will be a rare screening of the 1961 film, Tel Aviv, a City and Its Activities. The festival has become a meeting place in recent years for documentary filmmakers from around the world, as well a forum for them to network with producers and distributors. Among the events is a pitching forum, at which 12 aspiring filmmakers will present their scripts and ideas to the heads of Israeli film funds. There will also be a workshop to teach filmmakers how to finance and distribute their films. Israeli documentary filmmakers have been unusually prolific in recent years and the quality of these films has attracted worldwide attention, so the Israeli Documentary Competition will be especially interesting. Eleven films will be shown and, as in recent years, the trend is toward movies that deal with social and personal issues rather than politics (although, of course, some of them are on political themes). Yoav Shamir, the acclaimed director of Checkpoint, is back with Defamation, a look at anti-Semitism around the world today. In Google Baby, Zippi Brenner Frank examines the globalization of the fertility industry. The Way Up, directed by Shirli Berkovitz, is about a Romanian orphan, adopted by an abusive Israeli couple. The film moves back and forth between the story of the child's life in Israel and the fate of other orphans left behind in Bucharest. IN THE International Competition, a group of films on an extremely varied set of topics will be screened. Social issues - in particular, the effects of crime on both criminals and victims - are addressed in several of the films. In René, director Helena Trestíková, formerly the Czech Republic's cultural minister, follows a highly articulate petty criminal for over 20 years, detailing his time in prison, his release and the crimes that he commits again - all while he writes brilliant letters that hint at real talent. Trestíková will be present at the screening to answer questions. In the US-made film At the Death House Door, Peter Gilbert and Steve James look at the work of a minister who secretly recorded the conversations of prisoners about to be executed for over 20 years. Kim Longinotto's Rough Aunties looks at a group of South African women who have made it their mission to counsel abused women and children. In addition to the competitions for foreign and Israeli films, there will be contests for student films and films by teens. But this year, there is a new competition: the Doc-Challenge. This is a competition in which 15 chosen filmmakers have five days to create a documentary, four-seven minutes long, about Tel Aviv in its centennial year. The winners of this contest will screen their films at the end of the festival and these films will be shown widely on television and around the country. For more information and to buy tickets to the festival, go to the Web site at www.docaviv.co.il. Trailers for many of the films and even some of the films themselves can be seen on-line.

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