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(photo credit: REUTERS)
Several high-profile Israeli directors have just finished new films, or will be embarking on important new projects in the coming year.
The first one to open here will be A Tale of Love and Darkness, Israeli/American Oscar-winning actress Natalie Portman’s directorial debut. It will have its premiere in Israel – before any other country – on September 3, and the actress will be present at a festive screening at Cinema City in Jerusalem.
The Hebrew language film is an adaptation of Amos Oz’s acclaimed memoir.
Portman, who wrote the screenplay, also stars in it as Oz’s mentally unstable mother. She filmed it in Jerusalem in the winter of 2014, and it had its world premiere in Cannes last spring.
It will also be on the program at the Toronto International Film Festival, which opens on September 10.
Joseph Cedar, whose films have been nominated for Oscars twice (Beaufort and Footnote), is in the final stages of editing the English-language Oppenheimer Strategies, starring Richard Gere, part of which was filmed in Jerusalem earlier this year. Gere plays an American- Jewish businessman whose chance meeting with a young Israeli politician becomes more important later on when the Israeli becomes prime minister.
The movie, which also features Steve Buscemi, Josh Charles and Michael Sheen, as well as Israeli star Lior Ashkenazi, should be opening some time during the coming year, and the sooner the better.
Avi Nesher, the director of such Seventies classics as The Troupe and Dizengoff 99, as well as more recent hits, including Turn Left at the End of the World and The Matchmaker, has two feature films in pre-production.
His English-language psychological thriller, Past Tense, which will star Ruth Wilson, the Golden Globe-winning actress from Showtime’s The Affair, and will be produced by Anthony Bregman (Foxcatcher), has a start date sometime in 2016.
This fall, Nesher will begin shooting a different film, Past Life, in Jerusalem, Warsaw and Berlin with an Israeli, Polish and German cast. Based on a true story, Past Life is about two Israeli sisters in the late Seventies who were brought up by a strict and difficult Holocaust survivor father in Jerusalem.
One sister is a singer, while the other is a free-spirited journalist who lives a wild life. Performing in Europe, the singer is approached by a man who accuses her father of having committed murder during the war, and the two sisters become obsessed with finding out the truth behind this accusation.
Nesher has been auditioning actresses to play the sisters for months, and the casting was just announced. Nelly Tagar, who gained international fame for her role as Daffi in Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation, will play the older, more worldly sister. Joy Rieger, who stars in the upcoming YES television series Johnny and the Knights of the Galilee, will play the singer.
Nesher’s daughter, Tom, an aspiring director whose film, Albi and Alma, was in the Student Competition at the last Jerusalem Film Festival, cast Rieger in the female lead in her project, and suggested that her father consider the actress for the role in Past Life.
This is just one more sign that the Neshers are the Coppolas of Israel (Francis Ford Coppola directed The Godfather, while his daughter, Sofia, is an Oscar-winning director/ screenwriter.) French actress/director Melanie Laurent, best known for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, has signed on to play the key role of a psychologist in Eytan Fox’s Mike, a biopic of Israeli singer Mike Brant, who became a huge star in France in the early Seventies and then committed suicide.
Nadav Lapid’s first two features, Policeman (2011) and The Kindergarten Teacher (2014), received great acclaim around the world, and the director recently announced he will make his third film in France. Variety reported that Lapid will team up with producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint to make Micro Robert, a film inspired by his experiences living in Paris more than a decade ago, and a philosophical examination of identity.