The Jerusalem Film Festival is over, so what do we have to look forward to, movie-wise?
By HANNAH BROWN
The Jerusalem Film Festival is over, so what do we have to look forward to, movie-wise, in the coming months?
First of all, although the programs have yet to be announced, in August there will be a Brazilian film festival at the countrys Cinematheques. There were five recent Brazilian films at the Jerusalem Film Festival and the one that I caught, Cao Hamburger's The Year My Parents Went on Vacation, was excellent. It tells the story of a boy who is a soccer fanatic in the year 1970, when Brazil was competing for the World Cup. It was also the year that a dictatorship took hold there, and the boy's parents, who are involved in left-wing politics, leave him with his Jewish grandfather in Sao Paolo. But the grandfather dies suddenly, and the boy, who has not been raised as a Jew, is taken in by his grandfather's Orthodox friend and the members of his synagogue. It works as a very unusual coming-of-age story and a portrait of a specific Jewish community, one that is not well known outside Brazil.
One Israeli film from the festival that is hugely enjoyable is The Band's Visit. Eren Kolirin's charming and cleverly scripted look at an Egyptian police band that ends up stuck for one night in a desolate Negev town won the Wolgin Award for Best Israeli Feature, which surprised no one who had seen all the films in this category. Tell your friends abroad about this one, because it will eventually be released all over the world. It certainly deserves to be.
Another movie from the festival that has just opened here is Mira Nair's The Namesake. Nair, who directed films both in India and the US, including Salaam Bombay!, Monsoon Wedding and Mississippi Masala, is the perfect person to adapt the Jhumpa Lahiri novel of the same name to the screen. The Namesake follows two generations of a Bengali family in the Seventies from Calcutta to New York. Bollywood stars Irfan Khan and Tabu play the parents of a boy the father names Gogol, because of the father's affection for the Russian writer's work. The teenage Gogol is played by Kal Penn, best known from the comedy Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, who has gotten rave reviews for his performance. The movie itself has also won widespread critical acclaim.
Both adults and children all over the world are anticipating the release of The Simpsons Movie, which will be in Israeli theaters in a couple of weeks. All the regulars from the TV series that never seems to lose its edge will be on hand, as will actor/director Albert Brooks, who voices a new character. The plot is a vintage Simpsons anti-nuke plot, as one of Homer's screw-ups causes toxic waste to be dumped into the river and all of Springfield is evacuated. The real Erin Brockovich, the industrial whistle-blower on whom the Julia Roberts movie was based, will play herself. If any television show can sustain an 87-minute episode, it's definitely The Simpsons.
Richard Gere, who became my favorite Hollywood star when he visited Sderot a few years ago, stars in a new film just released here this weekend, The Hoax. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom (The Cider House Rules), it tells the story of Clifford Irving (played by Gere), the writer who tried to pull off a complicated hoax in the Seventies, claiming that he had collaborated with Howard Hughes (the subject of Martin Scorsese's The Aviator) on a biography of the reclusive billionaire. The movie got mixed reviews in the US, but I'm not missing a chance to see Gere in groovy Seventies clothes.
WHY ARE student films so sad? At the film festival, I took in one of the three programs of student films and was impressed by how depressing they were. The most upbeat of the handful I saw was about the death of a family's dog and the elderly father who is the only one to mourn its passing. One movie after another was numbingly dark and despairing. The irony is that the audience was filled with the student filmmakers, their friends, and their proud parents. The actual directors of these movies about street people breaking bottles over each other's heads and the like couldn't have seemed happier, or more solidly middle class. So what's going on? If a student were to make a movie that was actually playful and funny, it would stand out and would probably win critical attention and acclaim.
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