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(photo credit: REUTERS)
T he fall film festival season is starting, and, as usual, Israeli films will have a significant presence at major international festivals.
Israeli movies tend to do very well at the two biggest festivals, the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto International Film Festival. The Toronto festival gives out few prizes for films not made in Canada, but movies that are shown there generate buzz and often find international distributors. Israeli films win important prizes almost every year at Venice, including the Golden Lion, the festival’s top award, which went to Samuel Maoz’s Lebanon in 2009.
The 72nd Venice Film Festival runs from September 2-12, while Toronto will take place from September 10-20.
Amos Gitai, a director whose work tends to be received far more enthusiastically abroad than at home, has a film in both festivals. It’s called Rabin, The Last Day , and mixes news footage with a dramatic reenactment of the assassination of prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.
While Gitai’s film is the only Israeli movie in the main competition at Venice this year, Hadar Morag’s Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me? , a drama about two outcasts, one Jewish and one Muslim, who bond as they travel through a city at night, will be shown in the Orizzonti section, which is generally for younger, new directors.
There will be no fewer than 11 Israeli films at Toronto this year, an unusually high number. In addition to Rabin , which will be shown in the Masters section, Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness, her directorial debut, will have its North American premiere. The movie, which Portman stars in and wrote, in addition to directing, is an adaptation of Amos Oz’s memoir.
Two Israeli feature films will be shown in the World Contemporary Cinema program. One, Shemi Zarhin’s The Kind Words , is a dramedy about two brothers and a sister from Jerusalem who journey to France to find their real father after their mother’s death, and was one of the summer’s hit films in Israel.
The second feature, Yuval Delshad’s Baba Joon , is an outstanding, brilliantly crafted drama about a family of Iranian immigrants who live on a poultry farm in the Negev, and a boy who rebels against his stern father. The father is played by Navid Negahban, who portrayed Abu Nazir on Homeland . This film, which is nominated for an Ophir Award, is, based on the movies I’ve seen so far, Israel’s best hope for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar nod.
The Polish/Israeli co-production Demon , by Marcin Wrona, is an updated take on the dybbuk legend, set at a Jewish wedding. It will be shown in the festival’s Vanguard section.
Two documentaries will be shown. P.S. Jerusalem is Danae Elon’s look at her conflicted feelings about hometown, and her late father, author and activist Amos Elon. Thru You, Princess , by Ido Haar, about how he befriends an African-American singer from New Orleans via the Internet, won an Honorable Mention at the Jerusalem Film Festival this summer.
Two movies by young filmmakers will be shown in the Discovery Section. The Mountain , directed by Yaelle Kayam, stars Shani Klein, who made such a strong impression in Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation as the tough yet very vulnerable commander, as a woman raising her family on the Mount of Olives, whose life changes when she sees a strange scene one night. Nitzan Gilady’s Wedding Doll tells the story of a mentally retarded young woman who falls in love with the son of a factory owner in Mitzpeh Ramon.
Two short films, Elad Goldman’s Latchkey Kids , and Kerem Blumberg’s One Last Night , will also be shown at Toronto.
The New York Film Festival, which will run from September 25 to October 11, has a much smaller slate of films than either Venice or Toronto. One of its special presentations will be Son of Saul , the first feature film by Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes, which was developed at the Jerusalem International Film Lab in 2013 and won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival.