Israeli women’s film festival honors Levana Finkelstein

Israeli actress Levanna Finkelstein’s most recent film, Shemi Zarhin’s "Silent," will kick off the tribute at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque for International Women's Day.

 LEVANA FINKELSTEIN  in ‘The Farewell Party’ (photo credit: United King Films)
LEVANA FINKELSTEIN in ‘The Farewell Party’
(photo credit: United King Films)

The Tel Aviv Cinematheque will be marking International Women’s Day – March 8 – with a week of movies spotlighting women in film, both from Israel and around the world. The highlight will be a tribute to Israeli actress Levana Finkelstein, who has had a long and celebrated career.

Finkelstein’s most recent film, Shemi Zarhin’s Silent, will kick off the tribute. In this film, the Bulgarian-born Finkelstein plays the key role of the mother of the film’s protagonist, who has chosen to stop speaking in a protest against all she has been through in her life. 

But a part that could have been a very heavy statement becomes funny and engaging, thanks to Finkelstein’s sparkling, wordless performance. She also has a small dual role as the mother’s very garrulous sister. Finkelstein and Zarhin will be present at this screening.

What else will be shown at the Israeli film festival?

Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit’s The Farewell Party will also be shown as part of the tribute, and Finkelstein gives one of her best performances in this film, which combines black comedy with pointed social commentary about choosing to die with dignity. Finkelstein has a very memorable and tasteful nude scene here, and the film costars Ze’ev Revach, Aliza Rosen, Ilan Dar and Yosef Carmon.

Among the other films in the Finkelstein tribute will be the comic A Matter of Size, directed by Maymon and Erez Tadmor, about Israelis who become sumo wrestlers, for which Finkelstein received an Ophir Award, and the rarely shown 1969 star-crossed love story My Margo, directed by none other than Menahem Golan, one of the few remaining prints of which will be screened.

Tel Aviv cinematheque (credit: DR. AVISHAI TEICHER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)Tel Aviv cinematheque (credit: DR. AVISHAI TEICHER/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Finkelstein has a supporting role in Aya: Imagined Autobiography, directed by Michal Bat-Adam, a movie in which a young woman’s fantasies and reality become tangled. Finkelstein is also a sculptor, and a movie she directed about her work, Reut (Friendship), details her attempt to donate a sculpture to her native Bulgaria.

There will also be a tribute to the work of cinematographer May Abadi, and several of her films will be screened.

There will be a number of recent films from Israel. They include Michal Winik’s Valeria is Getting Married, a movie about two Ukrainian sisters, one of whom is married to an Israeli while the other is considering taking this step. It stars Yaakov Zada-Daniel (Fauda), Lena Fraifeld and Dasha Tvoronovich, and won the Best Israeli Feature Film Competition at the Haifa International Film Festival. It will be opening in theaters throughout Israel at the end of March.

The festival features documentaries as well as feature films, and Aya Elia and Ohad Milstein’s Knock at the Door looks at the journey of a bereaved sister of an IDF soldier who now helps make those difficult home visits to inform relatives of the death of a loved one in the military.

The festival will mark the 30th anniversary of the Sally Potter ahead-of-its-time cult classic, Orlando, starring Tilda Swinton, about a time traveler who lives both as a man and a woman. Orlando features some of Swinton’s best work, and the supporting cast includes Quentin Crisp (The Naked Civil Servant) as Queen Elizabeth I and Bronski Beat frontman Jimmy Somerville.

Moroccan director Maryam Touzani’s latest film, The Blue Caftan, will also take part in the festival. It stars Saleh Bakri (The Band’s Visit), Lubna Azabal (Strangers, Incendies) and Ayoub Missioui in an intense love triangle in which a closeted gay man in a conservative Moroccan town falls in love with the male apprentice who comes to work with him and his wife, who craft gorgeous silk caftans together. The beautifully photographed and acted movie won the FIPRESCI Prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

A much-praised first feature by Charlotte Wells, Aftersun, will also be shown. It stars Paul Mescal, who was a surprise Best Actor Oscar nominee, as a very young, divorced father spending a vacation in Turkey with his tween daughter, while trying to overcome his mental-health issues.

There will be a number of special events at the festival, including dance performances. To see the full program and to order tickets, go to