The 72nd Berlin International Film Festival, also known as the Berlinale, just announced its final prizes, for the Panorama section, on Saturday afternoon. Although Israeli films did not take home any awards this year, several of the participating Israeli films did generate a great deal of buzz and received positive reviews.
The Berlinale has been a festival that has welcomed Israeli films for decades and in 2019, Nadav Lapid’s Synonyms won the Golden Bear Award, the festival’s highest honor. Dozens of other Israeli movies have won prizes and scored distribution deals in Berlin over the years.
This year, two feature films from Israel took part in the Berlinale, both in the Panorama Section. Idan Haguel’s Concerned Citizen, starring Shlomi Bertonov and Ariel Wolf, mixes dark comedy and drama in its social commentary about a young gay couple living in a neighborhood in south Tel Aviv that is home to many migrants, both legal and illegal. It is sure to generate a great deal of debate when it is released in Israel.
Ben (Bertonov) and his partner are planning to have a baby with a surrogate and they have a life many would envy, complete with a Roomba vacuum that cleans their lovely apartment first thing every morning. Ben even plants a tree outside to beautify the neighborhood, but his concern over this tree leads to a series of events in which a young migrant is brutally beaten by police, which he watches but does nothing to stop. His guilt over his inaction changes his life.
In his director’s notes for the film, Haguel describes it as a “white guilt trip dark comedy.” The film, which portrays the contrasts in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood in the most expensive city in the world, brings up some of the issues that were also part of Eytan Fox’s Sublet and Tomer Shushan’s Oscar-nominated short film, White Eye. It was acquired for world distribution by M-Appeal, a Berlin-based company.
Ran Tal is one of Israel’s most distinguished documentary directors and his latest film, 1341 Frames of Love and War, is a portrait of war photographer Micha Bar-Am, who has captured extraordinary images which have shaped the way people around the world view the Middle East and its conflicts.
Bar-Am was part of an elite group of photographers at the Magnum photo agency, which was created by the legendary photographers, Robert Capa and Henri Cartier-Bresson. His work appeared in some of the most prestigious publications in the world, including the New York Times and Paris Match. Bar-Am gave Tal access to more than half a million negatives stored in his basement and was willing to discuss any of them.
Tal’s previous films include What If? Ehud Barak on War and Peace, The Museum, Children of the Sun and Garden of Eden. His 1341 Frames was supported by yes Docu and sales for part of the world are being handled by Reservoir Films.
In addition, the Israeli-run Green Productions had two short films that were shown at the Berlinale, Datsun from New Zealand by Mark Albiston and Moja Vesna by Sara Kern, an Australian film.
While Israeli TV series did not take part in the Berlinale Series competition this year, the miniseries, Yosi, the Regretful Spy – a fact-based drama by Daniel Burman (Lost Embrace) and Sebastián Borensztein – tells the story of an agent who infiltrates the Argentinian Jewish community and whose actions pave the way for two devastating attacks in the 1990s.