Reality cinema

People may think of documentary films as dour and depressing, but this year's lineup at DocAviv in Tel Aviv, is anything but.

DocAviv Festival 370 (photo credit: Courtesy)
DocAviv Festival 370
(photo credit: Courtesy)
DocAviv, the international documentary festival that begins May 3 (and runs through May 12) at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and other venues around the city is a showcase for the best recent documentaries – but it’s more than that. In its 14-year history, it has become a place for Israeli filmmakers and film students to meet and exchange ideas with international directors and producers, as well as with viewers. There are a host of events associated with the festival, and most are open to the general public.
These events – both formal and informal – take their flavor from the atmosphere of the city. On the informal side are the DocAviv Hangouts, which take place at bars throughout the city every night during the festival, starting at 10 p.m. The first of these is at Downtown Piano Bar on Levontin Street, while on the closing night of the festival, there will be a Hangout/Closing Party at the Har Sinai Bar on Har Sinai Street.
Tel Aviv is known around the world for its nightlife, some of which is centered in the port area.
A series of films about music will shown at the Tel Aviv Port, all of them about music. These outdoor screenings will be hosted by DJs. The films to be shown are Marley, a portrait of reggae artist Bob Marley; Under African Skies, a film about a tribute concert performed by Paul Simon and African musicians to mark over two decades of collaboration; Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Group Called Quest, about an influential hip-hop group; and From the Sky Down, a look at the making of the U2 album Achtung, Baby, which is the latest film by Davis Guggenheim, who made the Oscar-winning An Inconvenient Truth.
The winners of the fourth DocuChallenge will also be announced at the port, on the evening of May 10.
DocuChallenge is an international film project, a competition for making short documentaries on a given subject in a limited time span. Participating filmmakers have only five days to create a documentary film between four and seven minutes long. This year’s theme – which was announced on April 29, is “Foreign Body.” The 12-15 filmmakers chosen work on their films in parallel and submit them on the appointed day and time. For the first time, this year all the films will be produced in high definition.
But the DocuChallenge is just one of the festival competitions. There are also competitions for the Best International Documentary, the Best Israeli Documentary, the Best Student Documentary.
As always, a pitching session will be part of the program, as filmmakers working on projects present their ideas to representatives of the film funds. There will also be a program entitled Docu Agenda, a program for aspiring documentary filmmakers run by representatives of the film funds and NGOs, on how to use the documentary medium as a tool for change. US documentary consultant and author Morrie Warshawski will be present to work with the participants.
The Docu Challenge charges a fee and registration is required.
In honor of Tel Aviv Arts Year, there will be a number of guest speakers discussing the many films in the festival that focus on the arts. Among the lecturers will be Sergio Edelstein, curator and director of the Center for Contemporary Art, Tel Aviv, who will give audiences some perspective on the film, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present. Bill Cunningham New York, the acclaimed and very entertaining documentary about the eccentric and brilliant fashion photographer, will be the subject of a lecture by Eyal de Leeuw, co-writer of the blog Ha-Garçonnière and head of external relations for Mediatheque Holon.
DocAviv will also feature the sixth Art:21 series, which is dedicated to the themes and ideas that shape the field of contemporary art. The series introduces the viewer to 13 leading artists, as they reveal the influences, ideas and techniques underlying their works.
The Video Art, Privatized Ideologies program presents four works that are both documentaries and video art. Award-winning composer Gil Talmi will host a workshop on music for documentaries.
To find out more about the programs and to purchase tickets, go the festival website at