The very few cinematic gems this year shone brightly against the background of so many undistinguished movies. Although according to year-end industry reports from Hollywood, the total box office was up this year, much of those admissions dollars were spent at big-budget franchise films such as the last James Bond movie, Skyfall, or the first part of The Hobbit trilogy.Those films were well-done entertainment, but didn’t break any new ground or take any risks. But a few directors managed to tell compelling stories in original ways, even if some of their films played only briefly in theaters.As always, this list includes only films that have played in Israel in the past year, and does not include many of the much-anticipated year-end releases from the US, such as Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln and Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. They haven’t yet made it to Israel – although most are coming soon.It may surprise some that there are three Israeli films on this list – two feature films and a documentary – but it shouldn’t. Israeli films rank firmly among the best in the world, and naturally I see as many as I possibly can. This list represents the best of the best of what was screened in Israel in 2012.1. 56 Up – Michael Apted starting following a group of British seven-year-olds from wildly different backgrounds and with very distinct personalities in the 1964 documentary, 7 Up. Every seven years since then he has revisited them, and now they are 56. All the documentaries in this series have been fascinating, but it’s especially touching to see them contemplate their old age.2. Beyond the Hills – Romanian director Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 drama, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days electrified the international movie scene, and deservedly so. Now, the director is back with a less accessible but similarly moving fact-based drama about a young nun in a rural area whose mentally unstable friend comes to visit. 3. Fill the Void – Rama Burshtein’s drama of ultra- Orthodox life in Tel Aviv and how one young woman triumphs after a family tragedy has won rave reviews and prizes around the world, including the Best Actress Award in Venice for its young star, Hadas Yaron.4. Margaret – If I had to pick one movie as the film of the year, this would be it. This brilliant coming-of-age drama by playwright Kenneth Lonergan (who made You Can Count on Me a decade ago) stars Anna Paquin (True Blood). It played briefly at the Haifa Film Festival, but is available on DVD. The film had a troubled history, and Lonergan spent years editing it, but it is the rare movie that was worth the wait.5. Marley – There have been many music documentaries, but this portrait of the Jamaican reggae star is particularly riveting. Director Kevin Macdonald (The Last King of Scotland) got interviews with Marley’s family and friends, and masterfully mixes these in with footage of Bob Marley performing. This one is also available on DVD. 6. Moonrise Kingdom – Wes Anderson is famous for such films as Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums and The Darjeeling Limited. His latest film is an extremely stylized look at two preteens in love set in and around a summer camp in Maine in the Sixties. With an all-star cast that includes Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand, it creates a magical, old-fashioned children’s book atmosphere.7. Sleepwalk with Me – If you listen to This American Life on National Public Radio, you’re already familiar with the comedy of Mike Birbiglia. He wrote (along with This American Life host Ira Glass and others), directed and stars in this charming story of a stand-up comic not ready for marriage, who starts sleepwalking when he feels stressed. It won the 2012 Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival.8. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Britain’s finest actors, including Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson team up with Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel for a comedy/drama about retirees finding themselves when they head off to a hotel in India. John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) directed this appealing adaptation of a Deborah Moggach novel.9. The Gatekeepers – Dror Moreh pulled off a coup when he got all six surviving heads of the Shin Bet to agree to be interviewed for this fascinating documentary.The result is a gripping and sometimes upsetting look at the successes and failures of these influential men, whose decisions affect our lives so fundamentally.10. Yossi – Eytan Fox revisits the character from his 2002 film, Yossi & Jagger. Ohad Knoller gives a stunning performance as a young doctor who feels old and has given up on life, until a trip to Eilat sends him on a very different path. Among its strong points is what may be the definitive bad-date scene for the Internet era.