By his own admission, Harsita Eshel has cast his net pretty wide. “You’ve got to
draw people in to what you have to offer,” says the 50-something artistic
director of the fourth annual Spirit Film Festival, which will take place at the
Tel Aviv Cinematheque between October 14 and October 16.
adopting a somewhat eclectic approach is not necessarily a matter of watering
down the end product.
Over the three days, a wide swath of cinema punters
should find plenty to “draw them in.”
There are items that should appeal
to Israelis who have paid their backpacking dues in the Far East and South
America, traversing some spiritual expanses in the process, as well as to people
looking for insight into domains they would not normally encounter. And there is
some plain old cinematic entertainment.
The latter category includes a
couple of movies that are sure to pack ’em in – the Exile on Main Street
documentary and Woody Allen’s brand-new release You Will Meet a Tall Dark
The documentary tells the fascinating story of the making of
the eponymous Rolling Stones record, first released in 1972. Eshel – whose
adopted first name means “a life full of happiness” – says the inclusion of the
Stones movie is not just about appealing to middle-aged rock fans who can still
remember those halcyon end-of-the- Sixties days, or even to youngsters who dig
their parents’ music.
“Everything in the festival program has some
spiritual element to it, and that includes people making changes in their life.
This was a very special Rolling Stones album, and it captures the band at a
crossroads in their lives and their work.”
The record certainly caused a
stir when it was released.
Despite an initial lukewarm reception from
many music critics of the day, it made it to No. 1 in many places around the
THE “EXILE” in the documentary’s title refers to the members of
the group, who had to flee Britain at the time to get out of paying a draconian
90-percent tax rate on their income.
The making of the record was
certainly an unusual process, being done primarily in the dank basement of a
villa Keith Richards rented in the South of France, with the Stones’ mobile
recording unit truck parked outside.
Possibly the most appealing aspect
of the documentary is, as Mick Jagger put it earlier this year in an interview
with Larry King: “I wanted the audience to feel like they were around in 1972…
and I think you do get the vibe of the times.”You Will Meet a Tall Dark
was first shown to a positive response at this year’s Cannes Film
Festival and went on general release in the United States only a couple of weeks
ago. As is his wont, Allen digs deep into human frailties and the transience of
The characters in the movie all make life-changing
decisions; but not all is well that ends well.Breath Made Visible
by Ruedi Gerber, is one of the most emotive and uplifting documentaries of
recent years. It tells the story of the long life and rich body of work of
California-based veteran modern dance artist, choreographer and teacher Anna
Now 90 years old, for the last seven-plus decades Halprin has
defied logic, the Establishment, conformism, traditionalism, racism and just
about every ism going.
She has retained her vibrancy into advanced old
age and continues to teach from her California home, near San Francisco, and
will attend the Tel Aviv screening.
Besides her impending visit here,
there is another footnote to the Halprin-Israel connection, as her architect
husband Larry designed the Haas Promenade in Jerusalem’s East Talpiot
The documentary title refers to Halprin’s definition of
dance – if, that is, her interpretation of the art form could be described in
such easily understandable words.
It appears that she has always been
intent on doing her own thing, even if it got her into trouble. In the late
Sixties, for example, a show she put on in New York which included one scene
with nudity got her banned from the Big Apple for many years. The same
production, by the way, was enthusiastically received in Sweden at the
Having triumphed over cancer at the age of 50, Halprin stopped
performing in public and began devoting her working hours exclusively to
She crossed political-racial lines in Los Angeles in the
Sixties, bringing white and black dancers together. She was also an early
pioneer in the expressive arts healing movement and has led numerous
collaborative dance programs with terminally ill patients, based on her belief
in the connection between movement and the healing power of
Halprin will also lead a workshop at the film festival, which
should be a rare experience.
This festival has certainly come along in
leaps and bounds.
“We started out seven years ago with occasional
screenings at the Cinematheque of films with spiritual content,” explains Eshel.
“The whole thing grew, and we got support from the Municipality of Tel Aviv, and
now we get between 7,000 and 10,000 people coming to the festival each
Not bad going for a somewhat esoteric event taking place – to
borrow a sentiment from the Stones documentary – on Main Street, Tel
“We specifically wanted the festival to be in Tel Aviv,” Eshel
continues. “It would be easier to bring people to the films at New Age events
like the Shantipi Festival, and suchlike. But we wanted to offer people who
might not normally have access to, or even look for, such material the chance to
learn about new things.
“Most of the people who come to the festival are
aged between 20 and 70, so the films obviously appeal to a wide age group, and
to professional and well-educated people.”
Eshel has evidently done good
work, building up the event up from nothing.
“This is the biggest film
festival of its kind in the world,” he says. “There was nothing like this
If, for example, you went into The Third Ear [CD and DVD store in
Tel Aviv], you wouldn’t find a separate section for these kinds of movies. The
genre simply does not exist there.”
Elsewhere on the film roster are
items that investigate confluences of East and West in, for example, Blessings,
which follows the experiences of a group of American women who spend time with
nuns in Tibet.Sex, Magic Manifesting Maya
takes an entertaining looks at
spiritual and physical healing through the Buddhist-Hindu tantra belief system
which incorporates sexual healing.
The pure entertainment section of the
festival also features the Australian Bran Nue Dae
, based on a theatrical
production set in the Sixties. The film follows the fortunes of a teenager on
the run from a priesthood school and an itinerant as they make their way across
There is also a premiere slot at the festival featuring A
Secret Pilgrimage to Jerusalem
, about a woman who decides to embark on a journey
through the multi-layered religious life of the capital.
Time for Change
should provide plenty of food for thought. It is a
feature-length documentary film based in part on the books of renowned New York
journalist-author Daniel Pinchbeck.
The film presents a radical positive
alternative to apocalyptic doom and gloom and features a gilded cast of the
likes of rock megastar Sting, iconic film director David Lynch and legendary
Brazilian musician and sometime politician Gilberto Gil.
screen entertainment, there will be panel discussions, seminars, lectures,
workshops and several art exhibitions over what appear to be a packed and
definitively spiritually uplifting and highly entertaining three
days.For more information: www.spiritfestival.co.il For tickets: (03)
606-0800 or www.cinema.co.il