Premieres, previews and prize winners

A festive December at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

‘Mr. Turner’ movie (photo credit: PR)
‘Mr. Turner’ movie
(photo credit: PR)
The 16th Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival is coming up at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on December 16, but that isn’t the only special program the Cinematheque is offering this month. George (Rehor) Ostrovsky was one of the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s founders, and there will be a special screening in his memory on December 27 at 7 p.m. of the rediscovered Chinese masterpiece Spring Comes to a Small Town, directed by Fei Mu, with subtitles in English and Hebrew. This will be followed by a reception featuring a Chinese-style menu.
There will be a number of new movies premiering at the Cinematheque in December. Nir Bergman’s Yona, a biopic about the life of the celebrated Israeli poet Yona Wallach, opens in theaters around the country on December 18. On December 8, the Cinematheque will show the documentary The Seven Coils of Yona Wallach at 7 p.m., which examines Wallach’s short and stormy life. Director Yair Kedar will be present after the screening to answer questions. This will be followed by the film Good Harvest by Ilan Virtzburg, a look at one of Wallach’s most famous poems, at 9 p.m.
On December 11 at 7 p.m., the episode of the TV miniseries about Israeli artists and writers The Accursed that was devoted to Yona Wallach will be screened. Director Hagai Levi will be on hand to speak to the audience afterwards. Levi, who was one of the creators of Be’tipul, the series that was adapted as In Treatment by HBO, recently created the acclaimed new Showtime series The Affair, which was just renewed for its second season.
Mike Leigh’s latest film, Mr. Turner, a biopic of the artist J.M.W. Turner, will premiere on December 6 at 9 p.m. The movie stars the dependable character actor Timothy Spall, who has appeared in dozens of movies. You’ve seen him as Wormtail in the Harry Potter series and as Winston Churchill in The King’s Speech, among many others. Many are predicting that Spall will nab an Oscar nod for his performance.
Speaking of Oscar nods, it looks likely that Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida will be one of the five nominees for Best Foreign Language Film, and it will shown on December 24 at 9:30 p.m. Ida, which won the International Critics’ Award at the Toronto International Film Festival and many other prizes, is about Anna, a young novitiate nun in 1960s Poland. Just before she takes her vows, her mother superior sends her to visit her only living relative, whom she has never met. Anna discovers that she is really Ida – no spoiler alert, this is all in the trailer – a Jew who was hidden during the Holocaust and whose parents were killed. The movie has gotten rave reviews for its acting and cinematography.
Another new movie that seems poised to get an Oscar nomination is Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, and its Jerusalem premiere on December 26 at 10:30 a.m. is part of the Sneak Preview Club program at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
Zvyagintsev’s visually stunning film is a modern retelling of the Job story, about a simple, brave man whose home and land, which his family has owned for generations, is seized by the corrupt mayor. It’s an allegory about facing corruption, and there has been some surprise over the fact that a movie so critical of the Russian government was picked to be that country’s official selection for the Oscar race.
Zvyagintsev, who visited Israel to attend the Haifa International Film Festival this fall, was philosophical about this apparent contradiction, saying that he is a Russian director and has no problem representing his country. Although this summary of the movie might sound bleak, it’s a beautiful film, with moments of humor and genuine suspense.
Rock in the Red Zone, a documentary by Laura Bialis, is a look at musicians in Sderot and will be shown on December 25, 27 and 30.
Throughout the month, short movies from the Israeli anthology film Love Letters to Cinema will be shown before films at the Cinematheque. Some of Israel’s most celebrated directors contributed to this project, and it features movies by Avi Nesher, Eran Riklis, Nadav Lapid, Dror Shaul, Hagar Ben-Asher and others. These short films are three to four minutes long, and examine some aspect of the directors’ passion for movies.