Film-fest hysteria

There are many festivals starting up soon, both here and abroad, and, as usual, Israeli films will have a strong presence.

systema film 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
systema film 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Oscar hype has come and gone, but Israeli films will continue to draw attention at upcoming film festivals abroad and at home. Israeli documentaries are especially well regarded internationally, and 26 new Israeli documentaries will premiere at Docaviv, the documentary festival. This extremely prestigious festival will run at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and other venues around the city from May 6 to 15 this year. As in past years, the offerings are quite varied and are not primarily concerned with political topics. The films this year include Israel, Inc., a look at the Birthright tourism industry; Irena, the Teacher, about a Russian music teacher working with children in Jerusalem’s Katamonim neighborhood; and The Electric Brain, an exploration of research on brain function.
Israeli films have always done well at the Tribeca Film Festival, since it began in 2002, when Robert De Niro and other New York filmmakers founded it to help revitalize downtown Manhattan after 9/11. This year, the festival runs from April 21 to May 2 and features two Israeli films that will be shown in what may well be the most competitive category: documentaries. Budrus, directed by Julia Bacha, is about a man who manages to rally the rival groups Hamas and Fatah, as well as some Israelis, to help prevent his village from being damaged. Bacha co-directed the 2006 film Encounter Point, a look at the Parents Circle/Families Forum, a group of bereaved Israelis and Palestinians who formed a support group. Alex Gentelev’s Thieves by Law, a documentary about the Russian Mafia all over the world, will also be shown at Tribeca.
Another Israeli documentary will be shown at the New Filmmakers NY Spring 2010 Festival at the Anthology Film Archives in Manhattan on April 5. The film is Gil Meisler’s Fireflies, a documentary about his brother’s disappearance in the Yom Kippur War, and how his brother’s absence changed his life.
Israeli films have also done well in recent years at the Cannes Film Festival, arguably the most anticipated and hyped festival in the world. This year, it will run from May 12 to 23 and the president of the jury will be Alice in Wonderland director Tim Burton, known for the bizarre imagery and offbeat themes in his films (which include Edward Scissorhands, Sweeney Todd and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). The Cannes lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but it usually includes Israeli films in several categories. Speculation this year is that the main competition will be especially competitive, with new films by Sofia Coppola, Terrence Malick, Peter Weir, Woody Allen and Israel-boycott enthusiast Ken Loach set to be released this spring.
As more and more movie lovers choose to see films at home, the Lev Cinemas chain is partnering with the YES cable network to offer over 100 films that have been shown in its theaters. This Video-on-Demand library will be available to those who subscribe to YES, specifically to the YES Max TOTAL service. Among those films that will be available are such art-house hits as Brokeback Mountain, The Lives of Others, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and The Queen.
Those who haven’t said “yes” to YES may prefer to borrow DVDs from theStar Library and Media Club at the newly reopened Jerusalem branch ofthe Association of Americans and Canadians in Israel (AACI), nowlocated at Rehov Pierre Koenig 37. Barbara Roth, a DVD producer andrecent immigrant from Texas, initiated this project, which will allowAACI members to check out a DVD for a two-week period for a donation ofNIS 5. Hard to beat that price. AACI is looking for DVD donations tothis library. There will also be one screening a month. For moreinformation, go to
Finally, you’ve seen the movie Ajami,and now you can tour the neighborhood for which the film was named.Frits de Wit, an expert on Tel Aviv history and architecture who hasbeen living in the White City for over 20 years, conducts walking toursof Ajami. On his tours, he explains the history of the area, from earlyin the last century and up through recent years. To get moreinformation or to book a tour, check out de Wit’s Website, Tel AvivFever, at