Israeli cinema to be featured at Toronto International Film Festival

This year, the highest profile Israeli premiere will be of Avi Nesher’s The Other Story.

‘THE OTHER STORY’ director Avi Nesher (left) with actors Joy Rieger and Natan Goshen. (photo credit: MICHAL FATTAL)
‘THE OTHER STORY’ director Avi Nesher (left) with actors Joy Rieger and Natan Goshen.
(photo credit: MICHAL FATTAL)
Toronto may not be the first city that springs to mind when you think about movie-making, but the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), which will be held this year from September 6 to 16, is the largest and most important film festival in North America, and it will feature several Israeli movies.
It’s an important place for Israeli films to gain exposure, because movie distributors come to TIFF to acquire films. Most Israeli movies that were distributed in the US made their deals at TIFF and because of this, Israeli films often have their world premieres there.
This year, the highest profile Israeli premiere will be of Avi Nesher’s The Other Story. Not only will it be shown in the Contemporary World Cinema category, it is one of five films – out of nearly 400 films at the festival – to be selected for the Speaker Series, a special category. The films in this series, which are chosen in consultation with the University of Toronto, are shown at screenings where the director gives a master class about the film. This is the third of Nesher’s movies to be chosen for the Speaker Series, and his fifth film in a row to premiere at TIFF.
The Other Story is a compelling new drama from the veteran director, who celebrated the 40th anniversary of his first movie, the classic The Troupe (HaLahaka), this year. The Other Story is about a psychologist (Yuval Segal, who is best known for playing Moreno on Fauda), who left Israel years ago and is estranged from his now-grown daughter (Joy Rieger, who won the Best Actress Award at the Tribeca Film Festival this year for Virgins). He returns to Israel in response to a plea from his ex-wife (Maya Dagan, who won a Best Actress Ophir Award for Nesher’s The Matchmaker), who tells him their daughter has become ultra-Orthodox and is about to marry her boyfriend, a musician (Nathan Goshen), who used to take drugs but who has recently become religious. Sasson Gabai, who is currently appearing in the Broadway production of The Band’s Visit, a role he originated in the movie version, plays the psychologist’s father, a psychologist himself, who is treating a couple involved in a pagan cult. The movie will be released in Israel later this year.
There will be three other Israeli films in the World Contemporary Cinema category this year. Yona Rozenkier’s The Dive, which shared the Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Feature Film at the Jerusalem Film Festival, stars the director and his brothers as three siblings who get together during wartime on the kibbutz where they grew up to honor the memory of their father, a man who made them suffer but taught them to survive. The three Rozenkier brothers shared the award for Best Actor at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and the movie also won an award for Best Cinematography.
The two other Israeli films in the World Contemporary Cinema Competition also premiered at the recently concluded Jerusalem Film Festival. Michal Aviad’s Working Woman, a movie for this #MeToo moment, chronicles the struggles of a young married mother trying to break into the high-end real estate market, who is preyed on by her boss. Redemption, directed by Joseph Madmony and Boaz Yehonatan Yacov, which won the Audience Favorite Award and a number of other awards at Jerusalem, tells the story of a former rocker who has become religious but needs to get his old band back together to raise money for his daughter’s medical treatment. Its star, Moshe Folkenflik, won the Best Actor Award at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic.
A short film, Old Thing, by Roni Bahat, will be shown in the Short Cuts section. It tells the story of a Tel Aviv junk dealer, his son and their horse, who face the end of their way of life.
Although this festival is very important for the Israeli film industry, Israeli films don’t win important awards here. That’s because the main awards are given to Canadian movies. However, the most-watched award at TIFF is the People’s Choice Award, which is based on audience balloting. Movies that win this award invariably get many Oscar nominations, and three of the winners in the past decade have gone on to win the Best Picture Oscar: Slumdog Millionaire, The King’s Speech and 12 Years a Slave. However, it is rare that a subtitled movie earns this honor. Only Nadine Labaki’s Where Do We Go Now?, a Lebanese film mainly in Arabic, has earned that distinction in the past 10 years.
The full TIFF schedule will be available on August 21. Go to for more information.