Jerusalem Film Festival.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
● AT THE OPENING of the 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival on July 7, thousands sat under the stars at the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater and watched a different kind of star parade across the stage. The lovely Emma Suarez, one of Spain’s most celebrated actresses, thanked the crowd softly in English, just before her latest film, Pedro Almodovar’s Julieta, an emotional drama about a mother searching for her daughter, was shown. The movie is now playing in theaters across Israel.
In spite of the wild and profane nature of guest of honor Quentin Tarantino’s films, he was dressed conservatively in a black suit and tie and thanked the festival, giving a sincere speech about how moved he was to be in Jerusalem at the edge of the Old City.
● THE LATE FOUNDER of the Jerusalem Film Festival, Lia van Leer, conceived of this as an event that would enrich and draw attention to Israeli films, and it has certainly done that. The first three in this year’s competition have already been shown, and they are a mixed bag. The first film, Guy Paz’s We Had a Forest, which focuses on an ordinary family that undergoes an extraordinarily horrible tragedy, is so disturbing I don’t think it will be seen much outside the festival circuit.
Nir Bergman’s latest film, Saving Neta, an odd collection of stories about different women all over Israel who come into contact with a down-on-his luck man named Neta, is hard to characterize, but it works. It features wonderful performances by some of Israel’s best actresses, among them Rotem Abuhab and Bat- Elle Mashian.
Meny Yaesh’s Avinu is an extremely violent story of a club bouncer who gets involved with crime, a disappointing follow-up to his 2012 God’s Neighbors.
There are four more films to go in the Haggiag Competition for Best Israeli Feature.
● MICHAEL ALALU’S Pepe’s Last Battle is a moving documentary about his father, Pepe Alalu, one of the left-wing, secular voices on the Jerusalem City Council, and his quixotic run for mayor. It’s both an intimate portrait of a well-known politician and a candid look at what it’s like to be the child of an ideologically committed father.
● DIRECTOR WHIT STILLMAN, who was at the festival with the Jane Austen adaptation Love & Friendship, which opens throughout theaters in Israel on July 14, insisted on taking a tour of the Old City with a few local festival guests on Friday afternoon, even though there were no guides or guards available. Taking it all in stride, he looked around the plaza at the Western Wall and asked what a group of Breslov hassidim were celebrating. Later, at a screening of his film in front of an enthusiastic audience, he said, “I go to a lot of film festivals, but I’ve never been to one where the guests are treated so well.”