Reality cinema

People may think of documentaries as dour and depressing, but this year’s lineup at DocAviv is anything but.

docaviv2010fest311 (photo credit: .)
(photo credit: .)
Israeli documentaries have been winning prizes at festivals all over the world this year, but if you want to see them before they go abroad, the 12th DocAviv Festival is your chance. The festival, which opened Thursday and runs until May 15 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, is also international in scope and features the best of documentary cinema from around the world. Films will also be screened at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and the ZOA House. Documentaries on music will be shown outdoors at the Tel Aviv Port.
The festival features more than 80 films over 10 days, which are expected to draw 25,000 viewers. There are competitions for best Israeli documentary and the best foreign film, as well as a student competition. There will be a pitching competition, in which aspiring filmmakers can pitch their films to a panel of established directors, producers and film-fund directors, as well as a special pitching event open to students and a documentary competition for high-school students. The Documentary Challenge Event is always fun: 15 filmmakers who were chosen from among dozens were given the assignment to create a short film (4-7 minutes) in just five days. This year’s theme for the contest is power and the results are always surprising.
As has been the case in recent years, politics, which is always a component of a documentary festival, takes a backseat to storytelling in the DocAviv films. The diversity of Israel is reflected very much in the films in the Israeli competition. The opening attraction, Teacher Irena, directed by Itamar Chen, typifies this. It tells the story of a strict but caring teacher in the Katamon section of Jerusalem. Rather than a humorless diatribe on poverty in the capital, the film celebrates someone who is making a difference.
In Israel Ltd., director Mor Loushy examines the phenomenon of organized tours of Israel for young people, which has become a big industry, and takes a hard look at the portrait of the country these visitors see. Alexander Gentelev’s Thieves by Law looks at the godfathers of the Russian Mafia. The intertwined fates of Israelis and Palestinians are explored in films such as Blood Relation, in which Israeli director Noa Ben Hagai makes contact with her great aunt, who married a Muslim and now lives in a Palestinian refugee camp. Rima Essa’s My Name is Ahlam looks at a Palestinian woman in Gaza fighting to get medical care for her daughter, who suffers from leukemia.
The international competition is equally varied. Director Henry Singer will be among the guests, and will present his film, The Blood of the Rose, the story of the life and murder of Joan Roth, an environmental activist in Kenya. Several other films touch on environmental issues, including The Colony, which examines the mysterious disappearance of a third of the world’s bee population since 2007. The Oscar-nominated film, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, by Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, looks at the legacy of the most famous press leak in history (which echoes the Anat Kamm affair here).
A film biography of Joan Baez, called Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound,will be screened out of competition. The Oscar-winning The Cove, aboutthe slaughter of dolphins in Japan, is another of the manyout-of-competition selections. Food Inc. takes a critical look atcorporations that mass produce food.
Special events and workshops include a meeting with filmmakers WillLovelace and Dylan Southern, who have made several films chroniclingthe careers of different musicians, including Franz Ferdinand andArctic Monkeys. They will present their latest film, Blur: No DistanceLeft to Run. There will also be panels on making films about sports,how filmmakers should build Websites for their movies and legal issuesthat relate to filmmaking. British producer Robert Thirkell, developerof CONFLICT, a model for how to make films on serious issues, will givea two-day workshop. There will be a program of films about theenvironment, combined with an organic market.
For more details, and to order tickets for the films, go to the festival Website at