Film Festival: Cinema in the animal house

The int'l organization of film schools has called The TA Int'l Student Film Festival one of the most important in the world.

If movies are right, and experience has taught me that they usually are, then everybody has a mentor. Mine was a history professor from my undergraduate days. He was witty, smart and always had great observations on life. And during the 2005 professors' strike, he urged us not to waste our time as students, as it wass the best, and perhaps last, time when we could completely and honestly fight for our beliefs. "Don't give excuses about lack of time. After you finish university, you get a job and raise a family. You won't have time for ideology. This is the time to fight for your beliefs, to create change," he said. And he was right. All over the world students are the vanguard of change - in China facing down tanks, in France disrupting parliament and in Israel, even if they seem to act in their self-interest. But the fact remains that students' power comes from a complete and undisputed belief in their own ideology and the energy to seek its implementation. Shira Carmi and Efrat Cohen, directors of The Tel Aviv 12th International Student Film Festival, agree. "Students aren't restrained by commercial success, therefore they allow themselves to be innovative," they say; however "it must be said that innovation does not cancel out poor quality. The movies chosen for the festival are very creative and many could just as easily be screened as regular releases." In fact, CILECT, the international organization of film schools, has called The Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival one of the most important in the world. This year's festival will be star studded. Jean-Luc Godard, the legendary French director and one of the founders of Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) cinema, will attend. "I arrive as a private citizen and as an eternal cinema student," he said. Other guests include indie film director John Sayles (Lone Star, The Sunshine State), Spanish director Julio Medem (Sex and Lucia) and actress/director Sarah Polley (who appeared in Secret Life of Words and directed Away From Her). But with all due respect , the festival's main attraction are the works of the Israeli and international students. With the recognition of Israeli film on the rise the world over, it is safe to say that this is the place to find the next big thing. And special attention should be paid to local, young filmmakers. 140 films will compete in the international contest, whittled down from 220 entries, representing 83 schools. Of these, 28 are Israeli entries, chosen in a new fashion this year - each school sent a student representative to appear before the selection committee, with the idea of enhancing this year's festival's student spirit. In addition to the competition, special attention is being given to Tel Aviv's centennial next year. As such, there are special screenings planned of documentary films depicting different aspects of Tel Aviv - from Bloomfield stadium to street performers to simply riding the city bus. "Students show these everyday things from their unique, personal perspective," Carmi comments. Also, the festival has tasked itself with saving the famous Zalmaniya store on Allenby Street, currently in danger of being shut down. The festival's logo is taken from there. Festival events include free midnight screenings of famous directors' student films, a screen writer's competition, meetings with Israeli screenwriters such as Shira Gefen and Shirley Mushayof and an academic meeting of cinema researchers. "At a young age, I remember wondering who would take the hard work of organizing such a festival upon himself. Indeed, it has been very hard work," says Cohen, who quickly adds, "Our crew is composed of a 100 students, all eager to lend a hand. That, the great films and the connections that are created between the Israeli and foreign students is what gives us the strength to keep working despite our total lack of sleep over the last couple of weeks." The Tel Aviv 12th International Student Film Festival runs from May 31 through June 1 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. For more information visit