Dancing in Jaffa.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Excitement over Israeli documentaries is at an all-time high around the world in the wake of the Oscar nominations for The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras this year, so all eyes will be on the Israeli entries in the 15th DocAviv, the International Documentary Festival in Tel Aviv. It takes place this year from May 2-11 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and other venues around the city. DocAviv is Tel Aviv’s largest film festival and the only all-documentary film festival in Israel.
The list of the Israeli films participating this year was just released. The opening night film, Dancing in Jaffa, is from Israeli director Hilla Medalia. She has made a number of acclaimed documentaries, notably To Die in Jerusalem, about a female teen terrorist and her female teen victim.
Dancing in Jaffa also explores Israeli- Palestinian relations from a distinctly different point of view. It focuses on award-winning ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine, who returns to Jaffa, his birthplace, to teach Jewish and Arab youngsters to dance together. It’s reminiscent of Mad, Hot Ballroom, a film about students in a tough New York neighborhood who study ballroom dancing, but with a Middle Eastern twist.
Dancing in Jaffa is just one of this year’s DocAviv films that has a musical element.
There’s also a film with the attentiongrabbing title A Dancer, a Pole and a Movie, about Neta Lee Levi, the European Pole-Dancing Champion for 2011. Levi was raised in a conservative Mizrahi family but now lives in Tel Aviv. The film chronicles her success in the European pole-dancing competition and examines her path to this sexy dance form.
Handa Handa 4, directed by David Ofek and Neta Shoshani, is about a young couple from the Bukharan community, one of whom performs in a Bukharan theater troupe. When the couple decide not to marry, it breaks tradition and causes shock waves in the close-knit community.
Music also plays a part in veteran director Ram Loevy’s Let’s Assume for a Moment that God Exists. He looks at a single chaotic street in Ramat Gan and examines the lives of tango dancers, murderers, sheep, barbers, prophets and others who live there.
Ayal Goldberg’s Rita Jahan Foruz looks at an Iranian-born Israeli singer’s decision to record an album in Farsi.
The Iran that we only glimpsed in Argo is the focus of Dan Shadur’s Before the Revolution.
Shadur’s family lived in Iran in the 1970s, and the film looks at the lives of Israelis in Teheran right before the Iranian Revolution. He uses home movies and interviews with Mossad agents, their families and many other Israelis who were in Iran then.
Yotam Feldman’s The Lab looks at the Israelis who make their living selling weapons and military knowhow abroad.
Michal Aviad, whose last movie, Invisible, was a feature film about rape, looks at the turbulent lives of the women who helped establish Kibbutz Ein Harod in Women/Pioneers.
Yael Kippur and Ronen Zaretzky focus on a very different but no less impressive group of women in Super Women, which is about five cashiers at a Tel Aviv supermarket. The film follows two years in their lives.
In Step by Step, Vitali Krivish examines the lives of young Russian immigrants who are in a special program to promote their absorption into Israeli society.
In My Arab Friend, director Noga Nezer tries to find out what has happened to Fares, a Palestinian who works illegally in Tel Aviv and suddenly disappears. Her search leads her to a remote corner of the West Bank.
Dana Idisis’s Thirteen is about the bar mitzva preparations for her brother, Guy, who has autism. As the family helps prepare for the event, they begin to come to grips with his autism.
As has so often been the case, the Israeli films in DocAviv tackle a varied range of subjects and defy expectations and stereotypes about what an Israeli documentary should be.For more information about DocAviv and to order tickets, go to the festival website at www.docaviv.co.il/en/home.