Reel deal in the Holy City

The 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival offers a strong lineup of the best recent Israeli and Jewish-themed films

JAMES SCHAMUS’ ‘Indignation.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
JAMES SCHAMUS’ ‘Indignation.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival, which will run from July 7-17 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque (with some screenings at other venues around the city), will feature a great many films of Jewish interest, as well as the best new Israeli films.
Although Philip Roth is one of the most acclaimed American Jewish writers of all time, there have been few good movie adaptations of his books, and James Schamus’ Indignation is the best ever. This movie, which will be released in Israel later this year, tells the story of a young Jewish man who goes to a largely gentile college in Ohio and falls in love with a suicidal young woman during the Korean War. Anthony Bregman, one of the film’s producers, will be attending screenings of the movie at the festival. Bregman is one of the premiere indie film producers.
His long list of credits includes Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Nicole Holofcener’s Enough Said and Please Give, and many others.
While Anthony Weiner may not inspire much pride, the story of how this former congressman and mayoral candidate disgraced himself twice through sexting scandals is fascinating, and it is chronicled in the documentary Weiner by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg. Married to Huma Abedin, a Muslim woman who is Hillary Clinton’s closest aide, Weiner comes off as a man filled with contradictions, who is his own worst enemy.
Those interested in Holocaust history will want to see A German Life, a documentary about Joseph Goebbel’s stenographer, a woman who is now 104. Although she considered herself apolitical, she worked closely with Hitler’s propaganda chief.
Interviews and archival footage reveal her perspective on her former boss.
Ferne Pearlstein’s The Last Laugh looks at a controversial subject: humor related to the Holocaust. It weaves together a portrait of a survivor with interviews with well-known comedians, among them Mel Brooks and Sarah Silverman.
Little Men is a drama by Ira Sachs about two boys who become friends when their families share a house in Brooklyn. Among Sachs’ previous films is the critically acclaimed Love is Strange.
Aaron Brookner’s Uncle Howard is a documentary about a promising young director who died of AIDS in the ‘80s.
Daniel Raim’s Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story tells the story of the Michelsons, who worked behind the scenes in Hollywood as storyboard artists and researchers.
A number of Israel’s best-known directors have new films that will be competing for the Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Feature.
In 2007, Eran Kolirin won the Israeli competition with The Band’s Visit, which also won 45 more awards all around the world.
His latest movie, Beyond the Mountains and Hills, will have its Israeli premiere at the festival. The story of a troubled family, it was shown at Cannes and already has a US distributor.
Asaph Polonsky’s One Week and a Day was also shown at Cannes this year and won the Gan Foundation Award there. It tells the story of a father, mourning the death of his son, who decides to smoke the rest of his son’s medical marijuana after the shiva ends.
Nir Bergman won the Israeli competition at the Jerusalem Film Festival in 2002 with Broken Wings and in 2010 with Intimate Grammar. Saving Neta, his latest film, is about a mysterious stranger who connects with four women whose lives are in turmoil.
Ori Sivan’s Harmonia tells an updated version of the Abraham and Sarah story, through the lives of classical musicians in Jerusalem. Sivan co-directed the 1996 film Saint Clara with Ari Folman (Waltz with Bashir).
Ronit Elkabetz, Israel’s most celebrated actress and a gifted director, died last April at the age of 51. The festival features a tribute to her. To Take a Wife, the first part of the trilogy of films about a Mizrahi woman who wants a divorce, in which Elkabetz starred and co-directed (with her brother Shlomi Elkabetz), will be shown at the festival. Yossi Aviram’s Il etait une fois, a documentary about the trilogy, will be shown as well.
A restored copy of the Israeli classic Avanti Popolo will be shown. Directed by the late Rafi Bukai, the film tells the story of the surreal journey of two Egyptian soldiers lost in the Six-Day War.
Yariv Mozer’s Ben Gurion, Epilogue, is based on six hours of interviews found recently. They were recorded five years before David Ben-Gurion’s death, when he was living in the Negev, and he takes a close look at his life and legacy.