Israel heads to Tribeca

The large and lively film festival in Manhattan is featuring some of our locally made movies.

Eytan Fox's sequel 'Yossi' (photo credit: Courtesy)
Eytan Fox's sequel 'Yossi'
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Eytan Fox, one of Israel’s most acclaimed directors, has a new film premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival in Manhattan this week, which started on April 18 and runs until April 29. Fox’s Yossi is the opening night attraction in the World Narrative Film Competition, and this screening is also its world premiere.
Yossi is the sequel to his 2002 film Yossi & Jagger and is the director’s first feature film since the 2006 movie The Bubble. Yossi picks up 10 years after Yossi & Jagger ended. Ohad Knoller, who won the Best Actor Award at Tribeca in 2003 for his work in the original film, returns as Yossi, who was a closeted gay soldier in that film and is now a Tel Aviv doctor. He still hasn’t come out, though, and he finds himself pining for Jagger.
When he meets a middle-aged woman (Orly Silbersatz Banai, who starred in Nir Bergman’s Broken Wings and Intimate Grammar) who reminds him of the time he spent with Jagger, he begins to look at the world differently. Leaving Tel Aviv, he ends up on a road trip south with a group of soldiers and finds himself becoming close to Tom (Oz Zehavi, who starred in Dover Kosashvilli’s Infiltration, as well as the television series Asfur).
Lior Ashkenazi, who starred in Fox’s 2004 film Walk on Water (and costarred in Joseph Cedar’s acclaimed Footnote), has a small role.
Clips from the film look promising. While it’s unusual for a dramatic film to have a sequel, Fox has clear reasons for wanting to revisit this character and tell more of his story. The director says that he wanted to show “how Israel has changed. Yossi is still suffering from the trauma of losing his love, and he’s having a tough time. But then he meets this young soldier who is completely comfortable with his sexuality, and it changes him, too.”
When we spoke about Yossi, Fox, who was born in New York to American parents who moved to Israel, declined to give away too many details of the plot, but he admitted that in the decade since the 65-minute made-for-TV Yossi & Jagger became a breakaway international hit, his working methods have changed. “I used to always have one project, one thing at a time, that I was working on.”
Now, though, partly due to the economic climate and partly because of new opportunities that have opened up for him, Fox usually has a few different ideas he works on, both for films and television. He last hit the festival circuit with Mary Lou, a television series about a young man looking for his mother who finds his way to the drag-club scene in Tel Aviv. The series made the rounds of Jewish, Israeli and gay film festivals around the world.
Two other notable films from Israel will be shown at Tribeca this year. Last summer at the Jerusalem Film Festival, the film that got the most buzz was Arnon Goldfinger’s documentary The Flat. It starts off when Goldfinger’s grandmother dies and he starts clearing out her Tel Aviv apartment, which leads him to uncover some shocking family secrets.
Sharon Bar-Ziv’s feature film debut, Room 514, will have its North American premiere at the festival. Bar-Ziv, who has worked in the past as a screenwriter, made a movie about a topic that could have been taken from today’s headlines: alleged brutality charges against a senior IDF officer. The film follows the officer’s interrogation and looks at much of the story from the point of view of an idealistic female military interrogator who refuses to back off, even when colleagues urge her to do so.
The Tribeca Film Festival was founded in 2002 by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal and Craig Hatkoff. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attack in 2001, they decided that a large and lively film festival would help revitalize downtown New York City. In contrast to the more staid New York Film Festival, which features about 30 films and no awards, the Tribeca Film Festival has hundreds of films and quite a few prizes. The Israeli film My Father My Lord by David Volach won the Best Narrative Feature Award at Tribeca in 2007, and a number of other Israeli features and documentaries have won prizes there over the years.