Cinefile: Doc fest and net tips

About the Israeli 'The Champagne Spy' and the Oscar non-nominations of 2006.

zodiac screenshot 88 (photo credit: )
zodiac screenshot 88
(photo credit: )
The main event in the Israeli film world in the spring is Docaviv, which begins on Thursday at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, and runs until March 24. This international documentary film festival began in 1998, but its scope has widened over the years and now it includes dozens of films from Israel and abroad, including student films, and also features panels by visiting filmmakers. As part of a tribute to the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), films from its archives are being shown, and parents may want to take their children to Robert Flaherty's 1922 Nanook of the North. It's been called the first documentary ever made, and this charming film about an Inuit family was certainly the first documentary I ever saw. Remember though, it's in black and white and silent, so it will appeal to unjaded children only. One of the Israeli films I'm most looking forward to is Nadav Schirman's The Champagne Spy, the story of Israeli master spy Wolfgang Lotz, who posed as an ex-Nazi and spied on real Nazis who were cozying up to the Egyptian government. For years, I've been hoping someone would make a film about him and his story could easily be the basis for a great feature film, too. Schirman's film focuses on the pressures faced by Lotz's family back in Israel. You can get more information in English on Docaviv at the festival Website at IF YOU'VE EVER WONDERED what Indians really think of all those Israeli tourists, you'll want to see Hummus Curry, a documentary playing at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Monday at 9:30 p.m. The film is billed as a "fly-on-the-wall" look at a rural Indian village packed with Israeli backpackers. EVERYONE KNOWS that there are all kinds of movies now available (legally and not) on the Internet, but there are occasionally video clips and oddities that come and go on the massive sites such as YouTube that are worth catching. If you have a couple of minutes, check out the collection of clips called the "Top 10 Greatest Film Speeches and Monologues," which you can find at The beginning of each monologue is printed and you can click and watch a clip of the entire speech. No one will agree with all the choices, but it's hard to argue with Robert Duvall's "I love the smell of napalm in the morning" dialogue from Apocalypse Now, Marlon Brando's wistful "I coulda been contender" boast from On the Waterfront and Samuel L. Jackson's "Tyranny of evil men" mea culpa from Pulp Fiction. I wish they had had used Campbell's Scott's monologue on the differences between the sexes from Roger Dodger (2002), but it's still a good selection. Connoisseurs of cult movies will be glad to know that Todd Haynes' Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story, can now be seen at Haynes, who went on to direct Far from Heaven, Velvet Goldmine, and Poison, made Superstar, a 43-minute film about the life and death of pop superstar Karen Carpenter, in 1987 when he was just out of college. The entire movie (except for a few interviews with passersby on the street), which tells the story of Carpenter's struggle with anorexia, is acted out using Barbie dolls. I don't know whether it's because Haynes didn't get permission to use the Carpenters' music or Mattel's OK to film the Barbie dolls, but the movie has been blocked from commercial distribution for years. It's a camp classic and was years ahead of its time. STUDIOS GENERALLY DUMP the movies that executives feel will not win awards or make a lot of money into theaters around this time of year, but one recent US release that sounds promising is Zodiac, directed by David Fincher (Fight Club, Se7en). Zodiac, which is set to hit theaters in Israel next month, is based on the real-life story of the reporters and detectives who pursued the Zodiac killer, who was responsible for a string of murders in the San Franciso area in the Sixties and Seventies. Zodiac left notes in code which gave clues. Jake Gyllenhaal (Brokeback Mountain) and Robert Downey Jr. (Ally McBeal, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang) play reporters and Anthony Edwards (ER) and Mark Ruffalo (You Can Count On Me, In the Cut) have the detective roles. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times wrote: "Rarely has a film with so much blood on its hands seemed so insistently alive."