Cinefile: Docu fest...and Portman out of character

As in past years, the films in the Israeli competition are a mix of political, social and personal concerns.

portman 88 (photo credit: )
portman 88
(photo credit: )
Most of the program for the Docaviv Festival, which runs from April 3-12 at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, has been announced. As in past years, the films in the Israeli competition are a mix of political, social and personal concerns. A highlight of the Israeli competition will be Brides of Allah, a film by Natalie Assouline which is comprised of interviews with would-be female suicide bombers and women who helped suicide bombers who are now serving time in Israeli prisons. The controversial film generated a lot of buzz at last month's Berlin Film Festival, where it won one of the documentary prizes. Other Israeli documentaries include Yonatan Ben Efrat's Six Floors to Hell, about Palestinian workers in Israel who live underground in an unfinished shopping mall near the Geha Highway; Shachar Magen's Strange Death, which looks at a family that may have been allied with the Turks during World War I and possibly been in conflict with the Aharonson family; Ada Ushpiz's Brides of the Desert, a look at educated Bedouin women coping with polygamy; Iftach Shevach's Adama, the story of veteran farmers on Moshav Nahalal and how they are managing during changing times; The Boys from Lebanon, directed by Ohad Ofaz, examines the lives of the families of fighters from the South Lebanon Army who have been relocated to Israel; My First War by Yariv Mozer is a video chronicle the director made when he went to fight in the war in Lebanon in 2006; Uri Bar-On's King Lati the First, about a child of foreign workers in Israel who is told by his Senegalese father that one day he will return to rule their tribe in Africa; Yishai Orian's My Beetle, about a man who becomes obsessed with his VW Beeetle and searches for the car's former owners; and Yidishe Mama, a film by Fima Shlick and Genadi Kuchuk, about a Russian immigrant who is upset when her son decides to marry a young woman from an Ethiopian family. Remember, these Israeli movies go all around the international festival circuit winning prizes and you can catch them here first (most are having their premieres at Docaviv). In upcoming weeks, I'll have more information about the festival, including guests and the international competition. FORMER HEBREW UNIVERSITY graduate student (and Harvard alumnus) Natalie Portman has a new movie coming out next week, My Blueberry Nights. It's playing at a preview screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on Saturday night at 22:15 and will open at theaters around the country on Thursday. Directed by Wong Kar-wai, it was the opening feature at the Cannes Film Festival last May. It's the first English-language feature by the director, who is best known for features set in Hong Kong such as In the Mood for Love and 2046. Blueberry is a road-trip movie, starring singer/songwriter Norah Jones in her movie debut. She plays a young woman who discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her. After striking up a friendship with a café owner played by Jude Law, she drives off into an American landscape of neon signs and all-night diners. Portman, cast against type, plays a fast-talking gambler in Nevada who takes the Jones character under her wing. The film, which got mixed reviews at Cannes, also stars Rachel Weisz and David Straitharn. NOT ONLY are Israeli movies being shown in the US (and around the world), Hollywood is looking to Israel for inspiration. The American HBO drama, In Treatment, which was based on the Israeli television series B'Tipul starring Assi Dayan as a psychologist, has generated a great deal of publicity in the US. Now, director James Gray (We Own the Night), has found another Israeli drama to remake, Dover Kosashvilli's A Late Wedding. A Late Wedding focused on a young graduate student (Lior Ashkenazi) from a Georgian family whose parents want him to drop his divorced lover (Ronit Elkabetz) and marry a Georgian girl. Gray's remake, Two Lovers, will cover similar ground, but is set in Brooklyn. Joaquin Phoenix will play a young man from a Russian family who falls for his new American neighbor (Gwyneth Paltrow), against his family's wishes. Gray, who might consider changing the title Two Lovers to something more interesting, is from a Russian immigrant family himself and has focused on this community in several of his movies. Another Israeli film, the 2004 comedy Colombian Love, has also been acquired by a Hollywood production company that intends to remake it in an American setting.