Docaviv winners on distribution path

'Souvenirs,' co-directed by Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat, took the top honor, which carries with it a cash award, to be used for promoting the film.

souvenir film 88 298 (photo credit: )
souvenir film 88 298
(photo credit: )
Several films about the intersection of personal life, politics and history were the top winners at the 2006 Docaviv Festival in Tel Aviv, in both the Israeli and the international competitions, when prizes were announced at a ceremony on Tuesday night. In the Israeli competition, out of 12 films, Souvenirs, co-directed by Shahar Cohen and Halil Efrat, took the top honor, which carries with it a cash award of NIS 60,000 shekels, to be used for promoting and distributing the winning film. Souvenirs is a complex story that focuses on the relationship between Cohen, an unemployed documentary filmmaker, and his father, Sleiman, a traditional 82-year-old of Yemenite descent who served in the Jewish Brigade of the British Army in World War II. Sleiman suggests that his son make a film about the Jewish Brigade, but Shahar is unenthusiastic until he learns that there is a possibility that his father may have illegitimate children with women he knew in Holland during the war. The father and son set out on a journey to trace the history of the Jewish Brigade and his family's own personal history that begins in Israel and continues throughout Europe. The jury for the Israeli competition was made up of Sally Berger, an assistant curator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York; Claas Danielsen, director of the Leipzig International Documentary and Animated Film Festival; Kristina Schulgin, artistic director of DocPoint, the Helsinki Documentary Festival; Naphtali Gliksberg, an Israeli documentary filmmaker; and Hanoch Marmari, an Israeli journalist and editor. In its announcement of the winners, the jury wrote that in the winning film, "Out of family material, basic and simple, the directors and their crew succeeded in creating a moving journey, complex and sensitive." An honorable mention went to Yoram Honig's First Lesson in Peace, a filmmaker's letter to his daughter who is about to start first grade at the Jewish-Arab school in Neveh Shalom. The Mayor of Tel Aviv and Yafo's Award for a Talented and Promising Young Filmmaker went to Tali Shemesh for The Cemetery Club, a look at the filmmaker's own grandmother and great aunt who belong to an informal club of opinionated, elderly Jerusalemites. This prize comes with a cash award of NIS 30,000. Shrak De-Mayo won the Best Cinematography Award for this film as well. The Best Editing Award went to Noit Geva for Honi Hameagel's The Beach Boys, which focuses on aging goodtime guys who hang out on the Tel Aviv shore. In the International Competition, in which 11 films were shown, the top prize went to Sisters In Law, one of several films on African themes. Sisters In Law, co-directed by Kim Longinotto and Florence Ayisi, was the rare upbeat film that focused on three women who work in the legal system in Kumba Cameroon - a judge in marital court, a policewoman and a state prosecutor - and how they work to further the cause of women's rights in several specific cases involving domestic and sexual abuse. The International jury, composed of Kirby Dick, the director of This Film Is Not Yet Rated, which caused a sensation at this year's Sundance Film Festival; Michel Driguez, the curator of the Mediterranean Film Festival of Montepellier; Laurent Roth, a French documentary filmmaker; and Anat Even and Duki Dror, both Israeli directors, said in its statement that "the film smashes the stereotypes we have of Africa." An Honorable Mention went to Juan Carlos Rulfo's In the Pit, about the workers constructing a new highway in Mexico under hazardous conditions. The winner in the competition for Israeli student films was Jonathan, by Adi Helman of the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem, about a boy who wants to dress up as a mermaid for Purim. The second prize in this competition went to Brothers By Blood, by Manara Nivron of the Camera Obscura School of Arts, about a rift between two brothers, one wealthy and one poor. An honorable mention went to Tanya Aizikovich, also of Bezalel, for Veterans, the story of World War II Russian veterans in Israel. In the Youth Film Competition, for movies by Israeli high-school students, the prizes went to films by Liat Picard, Yaakov Marmarstein and Ofri Perl. Given the international renaissance in documentary films over the past few years, it's likely that all the winners, as well as many of the other films that competed at Docaviv, will be shown widely both in theaters and on television. You can also expect the Israeli documentaries to pick up even more prizes as they travel the international festival circuit, since Israeli films have enjoyed phenomenal success abroad recently.