Israel's fall film festivals light up the screen

Israel's fall film festivals took place online last year, but this year they are once again in person.

'MISSION JOY: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times' at the Spirit Film Festival (photo credit: Courtesy)
'MISSION JOY: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times' at the Spirit Film Festival
(photo credit: Courtesy)

A number of fall festivals are back, after going online or mostly online last year, and they will take place all over the country – and this time, there will even be a few guests from abroad.

The Arava International Film Festival just announced its lineup. It is celebrating its 10th anniversary from November 3-13 with an in-person event that, unlike last year’s mainly drive-in festival, will bring back traditional seating. And that’s not all that will be back – there will be a significant group of foreign guests who will present their latest films. The presence of some of the best contemporary filmmakers will make the festival, which is held outdoors under the starry skies of the Ashush nature reserve, next to Tzukim, truly festive.

Robert Wise’s classic musical, West Side Story, just ahead of the Steven Spielberg remake, will be screened as part of the festival. Eran Kolirin’s Let It Be Morning, which just won the Ophir Award for Best Picture and six other awards, will be shown ahead of its release.

Among these guests will be Michel Franco, the Mexican director who made Sundown. The movie, which had its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival, stars Tim Roth as a man vacationing in Mexico with his family where all is not what it seems. The Cage, another recent film he produced, will also be shown. 

Juho Kuosmanen, the Finnish director of Compartment Number 6, the story of a Finnish woman traveling through Russia by train, which won the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival, will also be a guest. Kuosmanen has taken part in the Arava Festival in the past.

Laurent Cantet, the French director of such acclaimed films as The Class, will attend the festival with his latest film, Arthur Rambo, the story of a mysterious North African writer. Another guest will be Radu Muntean, from Romania, who will present his acclaimed film, Intregalde, about humanitarian aid workers in a rural area who find themselves tested when they try to help a disoriented local. An Icelandic director, Valdimar Jóhannsson, will attend and will present his movie, Lamb, the story of an isolated couple longing for a child who finds a mysterious new creature on their land.

THE ARAVA Film Festival will feature a tribute to the late Polish master director Krzysztof Kieslowski and will screen his 1989 series, Dekalog, which features 10 films, each based on one of the 10 commandments. Krzysztof Piesiewicz, his cowriter on the series, will be a guest. The Adam Mickiewicz and the Polish Institutes collaborated on this program.

The opening night film will be the movie-business satire, Official Competition, starring Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, by Mariano Cohn and Gaston Duprat. Paris, 13th District, the latest film by Jacques Audiard, who made A Prophet, will be shown in the festival. The film premiered at Cannes and tells a complex story of three girls and a guy. Mike Mills’s C’mon C’mon stars Joaquin Phoenix as a journalist who takes a road trip with his nephew. Harry Wootliff’s True Things features Ruth Wilson of The Affair as a woman intoxicated by a mysterious stranger. For the full program, visit the festival website.

For the 20th year, the Cinema of the South Festival will be held at the Sderot Cinematheque and will present films both from the periphery of Israel as well as from around the world that are devoted to developing countries and cultures and untold stories. It will take place from October 17-21.

It will open with Black Notebooks, a documentary by Shlomi Elkabetz about his sister and collaborator, the late actress/director Ronit Elkabetz. The film explores their family story and creative process. It had its world premiere at Cannes and won the Diamond Award for Best Documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival this summer. 

The festival is run by the School of Audio and Visual Arts at Sapir College in Sderot and is sponsored by the Sderot Municipality, the Sha’ar Hanegev Regional Council and Cellcom. There will be a competition of new films by students at the Sapir and a television pitching event, attended by representatives of major networks and international competitions.

The closing-night film will be Adam Kalderon’s The Swimmer, which was filmed in the western Negev and tells a story about competitive swimming, romance and discrimination against LGBTQ athletes in the world of sports. The film received a development grant at the festival a few years ago and in the Studio Darom program there as well.

The festival will present a tribute to the films of Ari Folman and will include his latest movie, Where is Anne Frank?, an animated docudrama about the legendary diarist and Holocaust victim, as well as the Golden Globe-winning Waltz with Bashir, and his lesser-known but wonderful, Saint Clara. Another rarely shown film by Folman that will be part of the festival is 2004 The Material That Love Is Made Of, an animated film that features eight Israeli love stories.

There will also be a program devoted to the films of Chris Landreth, an Oscar-winning director who has made brilliant animated films. Landreth has created innovative technology for 3D films and will hold an online meeting to talk about animation.

 'WEST SIDE STORY' lights up the Arava International Film Festival. (credit: Courtesy) 'WEST SIDE STORY' lights up the Arava International Film Festival. (credit: Courtesy)

STARTING ON October 17, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is presenting a Turkish Film Week, which will run until October 28. The Turkish Film Week program will also be at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque starting on October 18 and which is sponsored by and produced in collaboration with the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute. It will spotlight the best of recent Turkish cinema, both feature films and documentaries, with several lectures about Turkish society by experts.

The opening-night film will be Ahmet Katiksiz’s One Love, also known as Champion, a love story about a young jockey who falls in love with the daughter of the horse’s owner.

A number of the films deal with social issues. These include Commitment Hasan by Semih Kaplanoglu, about a farmer who fights against a company that wants to put an electricity pole in the middle of his fruit garden.

The Eye of Istanbul by Binnur Karaevli and Fatih Kaymak looks at the work of the acclaimed photographer Ara Guler, a member of the Armenian community. Through looking at seven decades of his photographs, the film paints a portrait of Istanbul and the varied communities there. 

The 15th Tel Aviv International Spiritual Film Festival, also known as the Spirit Film Festival, will take place in person again at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque from October 21-31 and it showcases movies about the transformative power of the spirit and how it affects consciousness, wellness, self-discovery, sustainable living and more. The festival includes feature films, documentaries and short films, as well as Q & As with filmmakers, panels and talks on subjects related to the films. There will also be an online component to this year’s festival.

The opening film is Aware: Glimpses of Consciousness by Eric Black and Frauke Sandig, an exploration into the nature of consciousness.

Other notable films in the festival include the latest movie by Louie Psihoyos, MISSION JOY: Finding Happiness in Troubled Times, a look at the inspiring friendship between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Through intimate conversations and archival footage, the movie explores their commitment to fighting authoritarian regimes and many other issues. Psihoyos also made The Cove, the Oscar-winning documentary about the killing of dolphins.

The Seeds of Vandana Shiva by Camilla Denton Becket and James Becket tells the story of Dr. Vandana Shiva, the daughter of a forest guard in the Himalayas who has fought huge corporations in a quest for justice in agricultural policy.

Ann Shin’s A.rtificial I.mmortality explores the latest philosophical and technical advancements in AI and considers the ethical questions around the quest for eternal life. Author, physician and wellness expert Deepak Chopra is among her interviewees.

Luiz Bolognese documents the struggle of indigenous people in the Amazon rain forest to preserve their traditions and culture in The Last Forest.