A timely cinematic forum

The International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot comes of age with films such as 'No Harm Done' and 'Saving Face.'

Women's film festival (photo credit: Courtesy)
Women's film festival
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While over the past decade there has been a renaissance in the Israeli film industry, that industry is still male-dominated. So now that a film directed by a woman – Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void – will be representing Israel for Oscar consideration, the 9th International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot is even more timely than ever. The festival, which runs from November 5-11 at theaters in Rehovot, includes more than 60 films from all over the world: feature films, documentaries and shorts. The themes the festival will showcase this year are religion, and women and the environment, and there will be a number of special programs as well.
Two distinguished filmmakers will be giving master classes, and there will be retrospectives of their work.
German film director Margarethe Von Trotta co-wrote many scripts with her then-husband, Volker Schlondorff, such as the classic The Lost Honor of Katarina Blum, and then made films on her own. These include the acclaimed Marianne and Juliane, about abortion in Germany, and Rosenstrasse, about the littleknown resistance against the Nazis led by gentile German women married to Jews. She will present her latest work at the festival, Hannah Arendt, a biopic about the political theorist, starring Barbara Sukowa in the title role.
Argentine director Lucretia Martel will also give a master class. Known for her films The Holy Girl and The Headless Woman, Martel has made feature films and documentaries, as well as shorts, and has worked as a producer and screenwriter, as well as director.
As part of the program on religion and women in cinema, Tunisian filmmaker Nadia El Fani will discuss her work, including her documentaries Laicete Inch’Allah and No Harm Done. The first of these two films is about the tension between religion and personal freedom in Tunisia in 2010, and the second is about how El Fani weathered the fall-out from that controversial film while she was in the hospital battling cancer.
There will also be a screening of the acclaimed documentary Saving Face, directed by Sharmeen Obaid- Chinoy and Daniel Junge, which details the horrific acid attacks against women who insist upon their rights in Pakistan. It’s a subject that is sadly more relevant than ever after the recent attempt to murder Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai.
There will be a tribute to the Ma’aleh Film School in Jerusalem, and films by its female graduates will be presented. In addition, there will be a pitching event for ultra- Orthodox women filmmakers, where producers and other industry professionals will listen to them present their ideas for films and will choose to fund some of these proposals. Martin Wenig, the author of the book The Haredi Cinema, will discuss the role of ultra-Orthodox women in the film industry.
Several of Anat Zuria’s critically lauded documentaries on Orthodox women in Israel will be shown, such as Purity, Sentenced to Marriage and The Black Bus. Her latest film, The Lesson, about a Palestinian driving instructor, will also be shown.
The program on women and the environment will include My Toxic Baby, a documentary by Min Sook Lee on raising children in an environment permeated by toxins.
There are two competitions at the festival – one for international films and the other for Israeli movies.
The opening film of the International Competition will be actress Vera Farmiga’s directorial debut, Higher Ground. Farmiga, who starred in the films The Departed and Up in the Air, also appears in this drama, about a member of a Bible cult who begins to have doubts.
In the Israeli competition, one of the highlights will be Mihal Breziz and Oded Binnun’s Aya, which stars Sarah Adler as a troubled Israeli woman who gives a Danish musician (celebrated actor Ulrich Thomsen) a ride to his hotel from the airport.
Rivkatal Faine’s Mother, Earth is a documentary about the Beduin way of life and the role of women. Irit Gal’s documentary White Night examines how Palestinian women who work in Israel cope with crossing the border.
Dana Goldberg’s Alice, a feature film about an emotionally stunted woman who works with disturbed girls, and Hiam Abbass’s Inheritance, about a Muslim family in Israel, will be shown at the festival as well.
Tickets and further information are available at the festival website: www.en.iwff.net