Extending the focus

Cinema from the periphery hits the heart of Tel Aviv.

Extending the focus (photo credit: Courtesy)
Extending the focus
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv has always been the center of the Israeli movie industry – until now. In the last few years, more movies have been made that do not focus on the Tel Aviv area or any of Israel’s other large cities. Stories of a different Israel that were never put on film before have been reaching the screen, slowly but surely. And now, to celebrate and help develop this recent trend, a series of films made in the periphery of the country will be shown in Tel Aviv, free of charge.
This series, called Cinema Meets Reality, is sponsored by Bank Benleumi, and the screenings will be held in the bank’s Culture and Community auditorium at 42 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv.
The first screening in this series will be held on February 7 at 8 p.m. The film to be shown is Ran Tal’s The Garden of Eden. Tal won the Best Documentary Director Award at the 2012 Jerusalem Film Festival (arguably, the most competitive category at the festival, which also included the Oscarnominated The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras) for The Garden of Eden. His previous film, Children of the Sun, about child-rearing on kibbutzim, won great acclaim when it was released.
The Garden of Eden is the story of the Sahne National Park (Gan Hashlosha), one of the most beautiful parks in Israel. Located near Beit She’an, it attracts a crosssection of Israeli society, and these are shown in the film: elderly kibbutz members who live nearby and begin their days at 6 a.m. with a swim in the springs; Arab families from up North who picnic there; groups of former Soviet Union immigrants who visit the park at night to eat, drink and swim “just like they did back in the homeland.” Soldiers visit the park while on their military service. Tourists from all over the world stop off there to and from the Sea of Galilee.
Says Tal, “I spent my childhood not far from Gan Hashlosha/Sahne. The five kilometers between the kibbutz where I grew up and the park were very short. Whole summers I spent in the magical pools there. I knew every path and every cave. . . [With the years] many things began to change. One day they added a gate and after that a fence, and then immediately they began to charge admission. Also the many swimmers who arrived looked different, spoke differently, and even their food was different. We felt we had been expelled from paradise.”
The film focuses on the stories of several people who work at and visit the park, such as a Jewish man whose wife has left him, a Palestinian who hasn’t found what he is looking for in Israel or abroad, an Israeli woman who has fled an abusive relationship, and a man who is mourning the death of his brother.
Garden of Eden shows a side of Israel that is a daily reality for many. While much of Israel is urban today, nature and agriculture are usually only a short drive away. For years, though, Israeli cinema spotlighted only the cities, and Tel Aviv far more than even Jerusalem or Haifa. The series curator, author and journalist Yael Shuv, said that the films screened in the series are about places “where there is still fresh soil and people go out walking, not only with their house pets but with also with other animals. These films describe various relationships between people and their environments, and their neighbors here and there, as the pines change with the time of day and the seasons of the year.”
Bank Benleumi’s Cinema Meets Reality festival is just part of the bank’s initiative to encourage and highlight the development of culture outside the large urban areas and to create a national dialogue by bringing that culture to Tel Aviv. There will also be free concerts, theater and art events in the future at the Culture and Community Auditorium in Tel Aviv.Free and open to the public, but pre-registration is mandatory. For more information and to reserve seats for the The Garden of Eden screening, call (03) 513-0001.