I swear it’s the truth

People may think of documentary films as dour and depressing, but this year's lineup at DocAviv in Tel Aviv, is anything but.

Life in a Day 311 (photo credit: Courtesy/PR)
Life in a Day 311
(photo credit: Courtesy/PR)
In these days of point-and-shoot, when it seems as if virtually everyone has his own blog or YouTube channel, it is a greater challenge than ever making sense and creating memorable art out of all this footage. The organizers of the 13th DocAviv Festival, which will take place from May 12 -21, have more to choose from than ever before. The festival, which will screen dozens of film from Israel and abroad, will take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) building and the Tel Aviv Port.
But the opening-night film, Life in a Day, is arguably the most ambitious project ever made out of footage shot by amateurs all around the world. Directed by Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) and produced by Ridley Scott (Gladiator), this film is made up of entirely of video clips which were shot on July 24, 2010 (the date, appropriately, is 24/7). Macdonald received approximately 85,000 clips from nearly 200 countries (which ran over 4,500 hours) and edited them down to a 90-minute film. The result is a sweeping portrait of the world on a single day, full of haunting images and moving scenes.
While some segments are extremely scenic (there is footage shot on snow-covered mountains and underwater, for example) others are more mundane, but not necessarily any less effective. In one montage, people around the world are shown making breakfast, having their morning coffee, and heading off to work. Another montage shows people all over the world playing sports.
Some of the film is devoted to a Korean traveling the world by bicycle, while a shoeshine man walking the streets of a Third-World country also gets to share his story. Sensitive viewers should be warned that there is a scene of cattle being killed by a bolt gun. Sometimes the simplest scenes are the most intense. One woman sits in her car just before the day ends, saying that she waited all day for something fascinating to happen, but nothing did, so she just films herself talking about her fears and dreams.
A great many of the films at DocAviv this year, in all the categories, include this kind of simple, selfrevelation.
In another high-profile film, there is the Oscar-nominated documentary by the British stealth graffiti artist, Banksy, Exit through the Gift Shop. The film takes a look at what happened when a French storeowner and amateur video enthusiast decided to make a film about Banksy. The Frenchman had no real intention of ever editing the footage he shot, so Banksy, who guards his anonymity fiercely so he can never be prosecuted by the graffiti and art he has painted in public places, turned tables and made a film himself.
A very different kind of film event gives aspiring filmmakers a chance to add their own voices to the festival. The Doc Challenge, in which filmmakers have five days to create a short film on a particular theme, will be held again this year. The finalists will be screened at the Tel Aviv Port during the festival.
LOCAL FILMMAKERS who have already made their films will be front and center at one of Israel’s most anticipated film competitions. And many of these films will focus on personal rather than political themes.
Two give intimate glimpses into family life. Jason Danino Holt’s Shanti, focuses on the failed marriage of the filmmaker’s parents. When Holt goes to visit his mother, who left his father after 22 years of marriage, at her new home, a hut in the Sinai, he is forced to confront the reality of his parents’ relationship. Tami and Jacob – My Parents, by Nir Horvitz, looks at the toll a father’s struggle with Parkinson’s disease takes on his family.
While these films focus on family, other films take their subjects from news headlines.
Sagi Bornstein’s Kafka’s Last Story follows the journey of Kafka’s manuscripts from Prague to a damp apartment in Tel Aviv and the fight over them which has recently made headlines.
But religion and politics are always part of any film festival here.
Efrat Shalom Danon’s The Dreamers looks at two ultra-Orthodox Israeli women who want to create cinema for other women in their community.
Ronit Kerstner’s Torn examines the unusual story of a Polish Catholic priest, who learned late in life that both his parents were Jewish. He came to Israel and became Orthodox, and eventually went to live on a kibbutz.
One of the highlights in the International Competition is Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story. It reveals the controversy behind the death of NFL star Pat Tillman, who left pro football to serve with his brother in the US army in Afghanistan. When he died after being shot in so-called friendly fire, the US military at first made it appear that he was killed in a shootout with the Taliban, but the truth eventually came out.
The film, Arab Charm, directed by Andreas Horvath and Monika Muskala, tells the unusual story of an Austrian professor, Barbara Walley, who took a trip to Yemen and fell in love with her Yemenite guide. He was married with six children, but persuaded her to become his second wife and to convert to Islam.
There also will be workshops on the future and boundaries of the documentary genre and animated documentaries. Aspiring documentary filmmakers have been invited to pitch their proposals to veteran filmmakers as Pitching Event.
The foodoc event focuses on the market at the Tel Aviv Port and features screenings of films that deal with food.
Doc Art is a special program of international and Israeli films about the arts.
For details of the schedules at the festival visit http://docaviv.co.il/ Those interested in participating in the Doc Challenge can find out more at http://www.docchallenge.co.il/