Spoiled for choice

There are 200 films in this year’s Jerusalem Film Festival, many of them very thought-provoking.

‘FAMOUS NATHAN’ is a documentary about the legendary Coney Island eatery. It was directed by Lloyd Handwerker, the grandson of the hot-dog emporium’s founder (photo credit: Courtesy)
‘FAMOUS NATHAN’ is a documentary about the legendary Coney Island eatery. It was directed by Lloyd Handwerker, the grandson of the hot-dog emporium’s founder
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival opens July 10 and runs through July 20 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
It features 200 films from over 50 countries, and among these, there are entertaining, poignant and rare movies.
An extraordinary number of distinguished guests are expected, including Spike Jonze, writer-director of the Oscar-nominated Her (as well as Adaptation, Being John Malkovich and many other films), who will give a master class at the festival. Pulitizer-Prize winning director- screenwriter-playwright David Mamet, last seen at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2002, is coming to read a new novella, The Handle and the Hold, as part of a Spoken Word component of the festival.
Chan-wook Park, the Korean director best known for Oldboy and other cult films, will present his latest film, Stoker, a psychological thriller which stars Mia Wasikowska and Nicole Kidman; Austrian director Ulrich Seidl, who made the acclaimed Paradise trilogy, and whose films, Dog Days and Import/Export will be shown; and actress Martina Gedeck, whose performance was one of the reasons The Lives of Others won the Best-Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2007. Her latest film, The Wall, will be screened.
Opening night Eran Riklis’ Dancing Arabs will screened at the Sultan’s Pool Amphitheater. The film, which stars Michael Moshonov and Ali Suliman, focuses on a Palestinian who gets a scholarship to attend a prestigious Israeli school in Jerusalem. The film is based on the writings of Sayed Kashua.
The closing-night film will be Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, the latest animated film from this master storyteller, who said it will be his last. A retrospective of his films will also be presented.
There will be gala programs of the best cinema from all over the world, as well as sections devoted to the latest Israeli features and documentaries, the Jewish Experience, classics, children’s films, outdoor events, the In the Spirit of Freedom competition in memory of Wim van Leer, the late husband of Lia van Leer, and much more.
The festival features a number of fascinating documentaries, and feature films that focus on Jewish life around the world.
Above and Beyond, a documentary about Jewish-American pilots who volunteered in Israel and helped found the Israeli air force, was produced by Nancy Spielberg (Steven Spielberg’s sister) and directed by Roberta Grossman, who made Blessed is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh. (Ms. Spielberg will attend the festival.) Above and Beyond features interviews with the surviving pilots, archival footage and recreations of some of their most daring exploits.
Both film buffs and historians will want to see German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, co-directed by none other than Alfred Hitchcock. This film, which is rarely screened, has extremely disturbing footage shot by Allied soldiers during the liberation the concentration camps in 1945. Hitchcock supervised the editing of the footage into a 70-minute film. Sidney Bernstein produced the film for the British Ministry of Information.
Jane Wells, Bernstein’s daughter, will attend the screenings, as will Dr. Toby Haggith, the restoration director of the Imperial War Museums in England.
Andre Singer’s Night Will Fall is an account of the making of German Concentration Camps Factual Survey. It details the history of the film, known for years as “the missing Hitchcock.” Like the German Concentration Camps film itself, Night Will Fall contains graphic footage.
Another film about the Holocaust is Christopher Cognet’s Because I Was a Painter, which shows how some concentration camp victims turned their misery into enduring art.
Felix Moeller’s Forbidden Films is an examination of what remains of the 1,700 feature films produced in the Third Reich during World War II. Moeller’s previous film was Harlan: In the Shadow of Jew Suess, about a propaganda film that was required viewing for members of the SS.
Alexandre Arcady’s 24 Days is a fact-based drama about the horrifying kidnapping and killing of Ilan Halimi by an anti-Semitic gang in France in 2006.
Based on a book by the victim’s mother, this film raises serious questions about the competence of the police and the prevalence of hate crimes in France.
Joachim Prinz: I Shall Not Be Silent, directed by Rachel Eskin Fisher, is a portrait of one of the most outspoken rabbis living under the Nazi regime, who went on to become a leading American civil rights activist. Producer Rachel Pasternak will attend the festival.
Stefan Ruzowitzky’s film, The Counterfeiters, won an Oscar in 2008, and his latest film, Radical Evil, is an innovative documentary that examines the psychology behind the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi death squads.
Michael Verhoeven’s feature film Let’s Go is about the daughter of concentration-camp survivors who have chosen to stay in Germany. When she returns there for her father’s funeral, she is forced to confront her parents’ past. Verhoeven will present the film at the festival.
Audiences looking for laughs will enjoy Alan Zweig’s When the Jews Were Funny, a history of Jewish comedy.
Famous Nathan is a documentary about the legendary Coney Island eatery. Lloyd Handwerker, grandson of the hot-dog emporium’s founder, directed the film, and he will attend the festival.
Another famous Nathan is the subject of a documentary: Abie Nathan, the activist who founded the Voice of Peace radio station. His life is chronicled in The Voice of Peace by Arik Friedler. The film features interviews with many well-known figures, including Shimon Peres and Yoko Ono.
Master documentary director Frederick Wiseman’s latest film, At Berkeley, looks at that branch of the University of California today.
To get more details, and to order tickets, go to the festival website at www.jff.org.il. Many screenings sell out, so don’t wait till the festival opens to buy your tickets.