The festival circuit

Israeli cinema scores again at Sundance.

Restoration movie 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Restoration movie 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Israel may not have scored any Oscar nominations this year, but an Israeli film has just won a major prize at Sundance. Restoration, directed by Yossi Madmony and written by Erez Kav-El, won the World Cinema Screenwriting Award. The movie, which had its premiere at the recently concluded Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, is known in Hebrew as Boker Tov, Adon Fidelman. It tells the story of an antique piano restorer Ya’acov (Sasson Gabbay, who is best known for his performance in The Band’s Visit). Ya’acov’s son wants to turn the store into something far more commercial, while Anton (Henry Green), a mysterious homeless man and pianist, shows up at the shop one day and becomes invaluable to Ya’acov. Screenwriter Kav-El had a big success last year with 5 Hours from Paris, a drama about an Israeli cab driver who falls in love with a Russian musician.
Newcomer Talya Lavie’s Zero Motivation won the Sundance Institute/Mahindra Global Filmmaking Award. Her film is three separate stories combined, set in an army base but with an unusual twist: The female clerical workers on the base are the focus of the film.
Lavie, a graduate of the Sam Spiegel Film School, also studied at the Bezalel Art Academy.
Although the final lineup for the Berlin Film Festival, which will run this year from February 10-20, has not yet been announced, the program for several sections has been made public. Berlin is a festival where Israeli films traditionally do well, winning prizes and generating buzz. Joseph Cedar has done well there in the past. His 2004 drama about a religious family, Campfire, received a Special Mention there; and his next film, the army film, Beaufort, won the Silver Bear in 2007. But his latest, Footnote, a drama about academia, apparently will not be showing there, at least not in the Panorama section, the program for which has already been announced. The film does not yet have a release date. But it has been announced that Cedar will be one of the directors contributing to the omnibus film, I Love You, Jerusalem.
The film, produced by Scott Berrie, will be a collection of short films about the city and is part of series that has already featured movies set in New York and Paris. Ari Folman also reportedly directed a segment, and Sayed Kashua and Etgar Keret will be writing some of the screenplay. The director of the framing story has yet to be announced.
Lipstikka, a psychological drama by Jonathan Sagall and starring Clara Khoury, will take part in the main competition at Berlin, while Michal Aviad’s Invisible, starring Ronit Elkabetz and Evgenia Dudina, will be shown in the Panorama Section. Aviad has made a number of television films and well-regarded documentaries.
Israel will also be represented at Berlin by Renen Schorr, the founder and director of the Sam Spiegel Film School in Jerusalem, whose last film was The Loners. He will serve on the Short Film Competition Jury at Berlin.
Other Israelis films we can look forward to opening during the next few months include The Flood (Mabul), which stars Elkabetz as the mother of an autistic boy (Michael Moshonov), who comes home from a long stay in an institution. Eran Kolirin burst onto the Israeli film scene in 2007 with The Band’s Visit, and his latest film will be The Exchange. It’s about a man reexamining his life and was listed as one of the most anticipated films of 2011 on the ioncinema Website.
If you want to mark some upcoming Israeli film festivals on your calendars, please note that the New York Israel Film Festival will run from March 31-April 14, the and Miami Israel Film Festival will take place from May 11-19.
In Israel, we can look forward to DocAviv, one of the world’s most respected documentary showcases, which will be held this year from May 12-21 and is currently accepting films for consideration.
Next up is the Cinema of the South (Kolnoa Darom) Festival in early June. And then, on July 7, the 28th Jerusalem Film Festival will open. We’ll have to wait and see which Israeli films take part in the highly anticipated competition in that festival.