It's movie time again in the capital

Sumo wrestlers and Ayelet Zurer are opening the Jerusalem Film Festival this year.

Ayelet Zurer 2  88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Ayelet Zurer 2 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 26th Jerusalem Film Festival kicks off Thursday night at the Sultan's Pool Amphitheater in Jerusalem, with guests, awards, fireworks - and movies. The festival, which runs until July 18, will open with A Matter of Size (Sipur Gadol), an Israeli film directed by Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor. It tells the story of weight-watchers in Ramle who become Sumo wrestlers, and is only the second Israeli film to open the festival (the first was Someone to Run With in 2006). Another opening-night attraction will be Israeli actress Ayelet Zurer, who will be on hand for the festivities. She is the first Israeli to cross over into major Hollywood success and recently starred with Tom Hanks in Angels & Demons, the much-awaited sequel to The Da Vinci Code. Her latest film, an American indie called Lightbulb, will be shown at this year's festival. The festival, under the directorship of Ilan de Vries, presents a number of achievement awards. Among these honorees is Theo Angelopoulos, the Greek director who won the Golden Palm at Cannes in 1998 and whose latest film, The Dust of Time, will be shown at the festival. Angelopoulos will attend the festival and will give a talk open to the public following the screening of his film. Veteran Israeli character actor Yosef Shiloah will also receive an achievement award. Although he often played gangsters in comedies, he is also known for his more serious roles in such films as I Love You, Rosa and The House on Chelouche Street. The festival features an evening tribute to Shiloah, with clips from his movies and reminiscences from those who worked with him. Producers/distributors/theater owners Yitzhak and Nurit Shani, who own the Lev Cinemas chain - known for showing outstanding films - will also receive achievement awards. The Sam Spiegel School for Film & Television will get special recognition, and there will be memorial tributes to the late Wouter Barendrecht, a distributor who did a great deal to promote Israeli films in Europe, and Uri Sabag, an Israeli producer. The festival features 200 movies from over 35 countries in 10 days. Screenings will be held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque's four auditoriums, as well as the Lev Smadar, the Begin Heritage Center, and other venues around the city. There will be intense competition this year for the Wolgin Awards, the awards for Israeli feature films, shorts and documentaries, as well as the Anat Pirchi Awards for best television dramas and series. The Lia Award, named for festival founder and Jerusalem Cinematheque founding director Lia van Leer, is given for films dealing with Jewish heritage, and the Avner Shalev Yad Vashem Chairman's Award is presented for the best films on the Holocaust. The In the Spirit of Freedom section provides a showcase for films on human rights issues, and it is given in memory of Wim van Leer, Lia van Leer's late husband. Free, open-air screenings of MGM musicals (including Hair and The Commitments) will be held at several locations in the center of town. Other special events include free, nightly concerts by local bands outside the Jerusalem Cinematheque; Common Language, an initiative designed to encourage local Arab filmmakers; meetings with festival guests, among them Karin Albou, director of the film Le Chant des Mariees, about a friendship between two Jewish women in Nazi-occupied Tunisia, and Gerald Peary, the director of the documentary For the Love of Movies: The Story of American Film Criticism; and Co-Mix Jerusalem, an art event that combines visual art, music, video and short film screenings. For further information on any of these events, or to buy festival tickets, visit