The best of the Jerusalem filmfest

There are a good number of classics, newcomers and documentaries to put on your must-see list.

film 311 (photo credit: Courtesy)
film 311
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 28th Jerusalem Film Festival, which runs from July 7-16 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque (and other venues around the city), offers a dazzling variety of films. But if you can’t make your way through the embarrassment of cinematic riches listed in the 280-page catalog, here are a few suggestions.
For an intense cinematic experience, consider Terrence Malick’s modern classic Badlands (1973). Malick was in the news recently again when his latest film, The Tree of Life, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. The reclusive director has made only five films in his nearly 40-year career, and many still consider Badlands to be his greatest achievement. Loosely based on a serial killer’s spree in the US in the 1950s, it stars a very young Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek, who give brilliant performances in this highly stylized, disturbing and gripping film. Nachman Ingber, the film scholar who is being honored with an achievement award, chose to include the film in this year’s festival.
As usual, there is also an embarrassment of riches in the documentary category. If you’re interested in the latest work by one of America’s most acclaimed documentary filmmakers, then see Baseball: The Tenth Inning by Ken Burns. Burns made a previous film about baseball, as well as highly praised series on the Civil War and jazz. Burns examines the past decade in the sport, looking at the scandals, the rise of Asian players and labor troubles.
Errol Morris, the Oscar-winning director of The Fog of War, has a new film out called Tabloid. It deals with the story of a high-IQ beauty queen who kidnapped a Mormon she had fallen in love with in the 1970s. Tanaz Eshaghian’s Love Crimes in Kabul takes a look inside the Badam Bagh Women’s Prison in Kabul and examines the lives of its inhabitants, many of whom are there for “moral crimes,” such as premarital sex and running away from home. Marina Goldovskaya’s A Bitter Taste of Freedom looks at the life and murder of crusading Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya.
Among the Israeli documentaries, Mostar Round-Trip by David Fisher is a complex story about how the filmmaker’s 17-year-old son goes to an international high school on what used to be the frontline between Bosnians and Croatians in Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovina. There are conflicts and friendship among all the students, including some touching moments between onetime adversaries from the former Yugoslavia and with Jewish and Arab students.
In Iraq ‘n’ Roll, Gili Gaon looks at the life of two celebrated Iraqi musicians from the 1930s, one of whom is Israeli musician Dudu Tassa’s grandfather. Alma Ha’el’s Bombay Beach, about the deterioration of the Salton Sea resort area in California, won the Best Documentary Award at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival.
The festival is always a place to discover new directors. Norway has had several international hits in the past few years, and Anne Sewitsky’s Happy Happy is part of this trend.
The film, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, is about two couples in an isolated Norwegian village. The cheery local schoolteacher finds herself falling for the sophisticated lawyer who has just moved in next door. Kiran Rao’s Mumbai Diaries was produced by Bollywood superstar Aamir Khan but it isn’t a typical Bollywood product. It tells the intertwined stories of several Mumbai residents, among them an artist, an investment banker, a boy who does laundry for a living but dreams of Bollywood stardom, and a young Muslim woman.
Mike Mills, whose debut film was the quirky Thumbsucker, returns to the festival this year with Beginners.
The story of an unconventional family, it stars Christopher Plummer as a 75-year-old widower who finally comes out of the closet. Ewan McGregor plays his son, an introvert who has never been able to sustain a relationship with a woman until he meets a French actress (Melanie Laurent of Inglourious Basterds).
Jerusalem Film Festival audiences are extraordinarily sophisticated and enthusiastic, which means that sometimes even the most obscuresounding film can sell out. If you want to make sure to see the films that interest you, getting there early often isn’t enough. So buy tickets online at or over the phone at (02) 565-4350.