A documentary renaissance

Israeli filmmakers will make a strong showing at this year's DocAviv Festival.

dolphin film 88 298 (photo credit: )
dolphin film 88 298
(photo credit: )
Thanks partly to director Michael Moore (Fahrenheit 9/11) as well as to Hollywood for making movies that are deeply uninteresting, and also to audiences and filmmakers themselves for becoming more adventurous, documentaries are enjoying a renaissance. To get a look at the cutting edge of international and Israeli documentary filmmaking, you'll want to check out this year's Docaviv Festival, which runs from March 15-24. There will be dozens of films shown, so many that although it will be based at its traditional home, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, there will also be screenings at the Tel Aviv Museum, the Eshkolot Payis Auditorium and the Suzanne Dellal Center. Docaviv features four main competitions: international films, Israeli films, student films and films by teenagers. Two special programs will be showcased this year. The first is a tribute to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York. MOMA has been instrumental in developing and promoting documentary films and a selection of American documentaries and videos from the museum's collection will be shown. These include Robert Flaherty's ground-breaking Nanook of the North (1922), which is a great first documentary to show to children. Salesman (1969), the classic cinema verite look at four hustling salesmen by the Maysles brothers, is another one of the many MOMA gems that will be shown. Ally Derks, the director of the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam (IDFA), the largest documentary film festival in the world, will be a guest of Docaviv and will present several films that have been screened at the IDFA over the years. These include a restored version of Gimme Shelter, the Rolling Stones documentary, also by the Maysles brothers. Other festival guests include Serge Toubiana, the director of the Cinematheque Francaise in Paris, which was the model for the cinematheques here in Israel. Toubiana has written a book about Israeli director Amos Gitai and is a former editor of Cahiers du Cinema, which is widely considered the most influential film magazine of all time. Elisa Simon, the programmer of the Palm Springs Film Festival and a judge at many international festivals, will also be at Docaviv. Other guests include Karoline Leth, a Danish producer; Yadwiga Glaveh of the Institute for Audio Visual Art in Krakow; German director Stefan Tolz; director Petr Lom of Canada; Patty Kim and Chris Sheridan, the directors of Abduction: The Megumi Yogota Story; Nima Sarvestani, the director of Iranian Kidney Bargain Sale; and others. THE ISRAELI competition is particularly strong this year as many filmmakers are choosing to devote their careers to documentaries rather than feature films and the movies they make reflect their varied interests and the complexity of Israeli society. Among some of this year's most promising-sounding entries are Nadav Sherman's The Champagne Spy, a biography of Wolgang Lutz, the German-born Israeli who posed as a former Nazi and spied in Egypt in the Sixties; Shahar Segal's On the Black Sea, about the journey of dolphins from Eilat to Russia; and veteran Israeli filmmaker Dan Wolman's Speaking of Love. The international competition features such films as People in Love and War, from Armenia; Jonestown: The Life and Death of the People's Temple, which has won awards at festivals throughout the world; Buddha's Lost Children about a Thai monk who tries to fight drug abuse; Abduction: The Megumi Yogota Story, a look at a 13-year-old Japanese girl kidnapped to North Korea; and Iranian Kidney Bargain Sale, an expose of the international trade in illegal organ sales. The special Israeli screenings include such films as Intifada Cult, by Ayelet Dekel, a look at how the second Intifada has influenced artists and Israeli life; Yael Katzir's Prayer in a Woman's Voice, about women who defy tradition and hold religious services at the Kotel; and Nir Toyib's Tammuz, about the destruction of the nuclear reactor in Iraq. The first full-length cellular film will be shown, Love Meetings, Second Generation, a tribute to Pasolini's 1965 film, Love Meetings. The new version was filmed entirely on a cell phone and looks at real lovers meeting in various locations. There will also be a number of panels that will look at various aspects of contemporary documentary filmmaking. For further information on programs and ticket sales, call the Tel Aviv Cinematheque at 03-606-0800, or go to the festival Web site (still under construction, but which will be ready soon) at www.docaviv.co.il