Stronger than fiction

The DocAviv film festival brings many a truth to light.

Stronger than fiction (photo credit: Courtesy)
Stronger than fiction
(photo credit: Courtesy)
They say that truth is stranger than fiction and, as documentaries have shown, it’s often a lot more interesting. As the documentary has become arguably the most vital cinematic form today, DocAviv, the documentary festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, which runs from May 2-11, is one of the hottest tickets in Israel.
The festival features dozens of films from Israel and around the world. There are Israeli and International Competitions, as well as student films, contests, classes and other special events.
Acclaimed American documentary director Alan Berliner is a special guest this year. His latest film, First Cousin Once Removed , a portrait of his rela- tive, a poet suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, will be screened at the festi- val. Berliner often looks to himself and his family as the subjects of his films, and his previous movies Intimate Stranger and Nobody’s Business will be shown as well. He will give a master class on the topic of how to conduct interviews for documentary films.
Other guests from abroad include Caroline Libresco, a veteran program- mer from the Sundance Film Festival; Christine Camdessus, the owner of a production company that helped make 5 Broken Cameras , one of the films from Israel that was nominated for an Oscar this year; Claudia Lands- berger, the director of the Dutch film institute EYE International; and Maria Bosanti, the creative director of the Cinema Du Reel Festival in Paris.
Special events include the Art and Citizenship series, in which several films that examine these issues from all over the world will be screened.
One of the most popular events at the festival is the series entitled DocAviv at the Port of Tel Aviv. These free screenings of music-related films are accompanied by live musical performances and DJs. The opening film in this series is The Rolling Stones – Charlie is My Darling – Ireland 1965 , which features rare early concert footage of the Stones.
This is the fifth year of the Doc Challenge, in which ambitious and quick-witted filmmakers have just five days to make a four- to seven-minute film on a given subject.
The films in the International Competition are as varied as the Israeli movies. Dutch-Israeli director Esther Hertog’s Soldier on the Roof had been chosen for the competition, even though it is about Israel. Hertog became fascinated by the motivations of the Israeli settlers in Hebron. She went to live among the approximately 800 Jews who make their home among the 120,000 Palestinians in that city. Through interviews and film of their daily lives, a portrait of these Jews emerges.
Marc Wiese’s Camp 14 – Total Control Zone couldn’t be more topical. It’s about a North Korean who was raised as a political prisoner his entire life. He was born in a North Korean prison camp to two political prisoners and eventually managed to escape. The film features his artwork depicting scenes in the camp and follows his struggle to adjust to his new life.
There are several other intriguing documentaries from Asia. The Act of Killing, by US director Joshua Oppenheimer, is a look at Indonesians who were accused of atrocities in the military coup 50 years ago. The director convinces them to write movie scripts and appear in films dramatizing their crimes, and they agree.
Martin Otter’s The Absence of Shadow is about a Vietnamese writer who went blind as a child as the result of wounds he suffered during the Vietnam War.
Blood Brother, directed by Steve Hoover, is the story of an American backpacker who visited India, got to know a group of HIV-infected children there, and decided to devote his life to them.
This year’s Best Documentary Oscar winner, Searching for Sugarman, mesmerized audiences by showing them a unique, surprising story they would never have heard about otherwise, and several of the other International Competition entries do just that. Bart Layton’s Imposter tells a story, full of twists and turns, about a Frenchman who claims to be a Texan boy who disappeared years ago.
Tchoupitoulas, directed by Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, is about three young brothers who wander the streets of New Orleans at night and discover a fantasy world. It’s an eclectic portrait of one of the world’s most fascinating cities.
To find out more about the festival and to purchase tickets, go to