Israelis are still finding ways to enjoy cinema despite COVID-19

The movie industry in Israel is coping with the COVID-19 crisis in creative ways.

AMOS GITAI directs ‘Laila in Haifa.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
AMOS GITAI directs ‘Laila in Haifa.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The movie industry in Israel is coping with the COVID-19 crisis in creative ways: The 22nd Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival will take place in September, Israelis will participate in the Venice International Film Festival, and Lev Cinemas has started a new VOD service.
The Student Film Festival, which was originally scheduled to be held in the spring, just announced that it will hold its 2020 edition from September 20-26, with some significant modifications because of the pandemic. The festival, which is produced and managed by students at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, will hold its screenings outside, in accordance with Health Ministry restrictions on outdoor gatherings. Screenings will be held in collaboration with local businesses, cultural institutions and restaurants. Films will also be shown online.
The festival will include a master class with acclaimed American director Gus Van Sant, who made such movies as Good Will Hunting, Drugstore Cowboy, Elephant and Promised Land. The class will be streamed online.
The online events will be presented on the AIR network.
This festival was established in 1986, and at first was held every other year, although now it is an annual event.
“These days, when cinemas are closed and the film industry is experiencing a severe upheaval, we felt a stronger need than ever to hold the festival and screen the films on a big screen – an irreplaceable experience,” said festival directors Mya Kaplan and Talia Wigoder, in a statement.
“Fortunately, the crisis did not affect the bold spirit of the festival and the creativity of film students in Israel and around the world. The festival program is full of wonderful films. “
This year, the festival will present films in five competitions: the Israeli competition, the international competition, the short independent film competition, a digital media competition and the experimental cinema competition. Prizes with a total value of NIS 135,000 will be awarded.
This year’s judging panel will include professionals from the global film industry who will judge approximately 100 films from Israel, Switzerland, USA, Russia, Singapore, Ghana, Belgium, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Hungary, India, Poland, UK, Croatia, China, South Korea, Czechoslovakia and Austria.
ONE OF the largest film festivals in the world, the 77th Venice International Film Festival, will be held as scheduled starting September 2. Organizers released the full lineup this week, and there will be an Israeli film in the main competition, Amos Gitai’s Laila in Haifa. The film follows connected stories of five women during a single night in a Haifa club. Its cast features Tsahi Halevi; Makram Khoury and Clara Khoury, who are father and daughter in real life; and Hana Laslo, who won the Best Actress Award at Cannes in 2005 for her role in Gitai’s Free Zone.
This will be the seventh time that one of Gitai’s films has taken part in the main competition at Venice, which awards the prestigious Golden Lion prize. Nine other Gitai films have competed and participated in other sections of the festival.
Israelis will also have a strong presence on the Venice juries this year. Katriel Schory, the recently retired director of the Israel Film Fund, will serve on the jury for the Horizons section. Nadav Lapid, the Israeli filmmaker whose movie Synonyms won the top prize at the Berlin International Film Festival in 2019, will be the president of the Giornate degli Autori jury, which will select the best film out of 10 in the independently run section.
Those who won’t be heading to Venice this year can find consolation in the fact that Lev Cinemas, the arthouse film chain, is launching a VOD service, Lev at Home, in response to many requests from frustrated movie lovers. While the Lev Cinemas are still closed in accordance with Health Ministry regulations, the new service, available via the Lev Cinemas website, will allow viewers to enjoy the best arthouse movies from around the world.
The service is starting with three sections: New Films, Movies We Loved, and From the Best Festivals.
“We have been thinking for a long time about a way that will allow people to enjoy our films during this period,” said Lev Cinemas CEO Guy Shani. “You can’t replace the big-screen viewing experience, but now at least there will be a way to watch quality movies until it comes back.”
Among the films that will be available will be The Artist, Moonlight, 12 Years a Slave, Amy, The Whistlers, After the Wedding, Give Me Liberty, The Specials and Greta. Other films will be added soon.
Single films will cost NIS 19.90 to watch, with Lev subscribers getting 50% off on the first film they choose.