Blue and white on the silver screen

The 70th annual Cannes Film Festival provides festival-goers with a small taste of the best in modern Israeli cinema.

THE ISRAELI pavilion at the Cannes Film Fest is intended to be a meeting place for Israeli and foreign filmmakers, and will feature presentations of films made in Israel. (photo credit: Courtesy)
THE ISRAELI pavilion at the Cannes Film Fest is intended to be a meeting place for Israeli and foreign filmmakers, and will feature presentations of films made in Israel.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Cannes is arguably the most important film festival in the world, and unquestionably the one with the highest profile, and Israeli movies will have a presence at the 70th festival, which runs until May 28.
Israeli movies have done well at Cannes for decades, winning recognition and respect as well as prizes.
Although there are no Israeli movies in either the main competition or the Un Certain Regard section this year, there are two short films screening at Cannes. Yuval Aharoni’s Heritage will be shown in the Cinefondation Section. It tells the story of a young man who learns that his recently deceased father was gay. This is a category where Israeli films have traditionally done well; Or Sinai’s Anna won it last year.
Sharon Chetrit’s Soup will be shown in the Creative Minds Shorts section. This surreal film is a look at the rarely discussed, scary, Rosemary’s Baby aspect of pregnancy, where a pregnant young woman is haunted by strange visions.
Matzor (Siege) is one of a handful of films to be screened in the Cannes Classics section. The 1969 film, directed by Gilberto Tofano, tells the story of a war widow (Gila Almagor) who is pressured by her husband’s friends not to move on with her life. Many think this is Almagor’s finest performance. The supporting cast includes Yehoram Gaon and Dahn Ben-Amotz (who was also one of the film’s writers).
The restored version is a presentation of the Jerusalem Cinematheque – Israel Film Archive, in partnership with United King Films and with the support of the Rabinovich Foundation. The time-consuming restoration was carried out under the supervision of the director of photography, David Gurfinkel. The film was originally shown in the main competition at Cannes the year it was released.
For the second year the government is sponsoring and running an Israeli pavilion, and this year’s slogan is, “Zoom in – Find More.”
The pavilion is intended to be a meeting place for Israeli and foreign filmmakers, and will feature presentations of films made in Israel.
Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev is attending the festival and hosting a reception at the pavilion.
Given her tirade against the Israeli film industry at the Ophir Awards last fall, it’s not surprising that some Israeli filmmakers decided to stay away. Regev made headlines on May 17, when she wore a dress decorated with the Jerusalem skyline on the Cannes red carpet.
i24’s website won the battle of the headlines when it dubbed her dress “The Dome of the Frock.”
Regev probably wasn’t happy with actress Isabelle Huppert’s decision to give the 2017 Women in Motion Young Talents Award to Maysaloun Hamoud, whose film In Between, about three Israeli-Arab roommates in Tel Aviv, was one of the most acclaimed movies of the year. Hamoud will receive a prize of $55,000. Huppert said in a statement, “I am delighted and moved to be able to shine a spotlight on the talent of one of today’s most promising female directors, Maysaloun Hamoud.”
Israel has had high-profile Cannes winners in the past, going back to Oded Kotler’s 1967 Best Actor Award in 1967 for Three Days and a Child, a movie that was directed by Uri Zohar, who is now an ultra-Orthodox rabbi in Jerusalem. Three Days was shown in the main competition, to great critical acclaim.
Hana Laslo, best known at home for comedy, is the only Israeli actress to have won the Best Actress prize, for Amos Gitai’s Free Zone in 2005.
Another Israeli film that was recognized at Cannes in the Main Competition was Joseph Cedar’s 2011 Footnote, about father-and-son Talmud scholars, an unusual subject for a Cannes film. Cedar won Best Screenplay for the film, and the religiously observant director and his family had to walk to the awards ceremony, which began on Saturday evening before sundown, so he could be there to accept his award.
In the Camera d’Or category for Best First Feature Film, Keren Yedaya’s Or, about an AIDS-infected prostitute (Ronit Elkabetz) and her daughter (Dana Ivgy), won in 2004, while Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen’s surreal look at Tel Aviv life, Jellyfish, took the prize in 2007. Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami got a special mention in this category in 2009.
This year’s main competition features new films by Sofia Coppola, Todd Haynes, Noah Baumbach and Roman Polanski, among others.
David Lynch’s Twin Peaks reboot, a television series, will be shown out of competition. Season two of Top of the Lake, the crime/psychological drama starring Elisabeth Moss, will also be shown.
It wouldn’t be Cannes without controversy, and this year’s first controversy is over television. Netflix, the streaming television service, now produces films, and two of its movies, Baumbach’s drama The Meyerowitz Stories, starring Dustin Hoffman and Adam Sandler, and Bong Joon Ho’s fantasy epic Okja, starring Tilda Swinton, are being shown in the main competition.
However, neither film is being released in French movie theaters but will go straight to streaming.
After an outcry by French theater owners, the Cannes management decided to allow the films to compete but changed the rules so that in the future, any film in the main competition will have to be released theatrically.