US film festivals next month spotlight Israeli movies

Most of these films will be released in the US at some point, but you can see them before that at these festivals, and often in the company of their directors.

Film festival (Illustrative) (photo credit: INGIMAGE PHOTOS)
Film festival (Illustrative)
(photo credit: INGIMAGE PHOTOS)
If you’re in the US and are interested in the latest Israeli films, you can see them at a number of film festivals coming up in January.
Most of these films will be released in the US at some point, but you can see them before that at these festivals, and often in the company of their directors.
The Miami Jewish Film Festival, which runs this year from January 9-23, will feature the world premiere of Aulcie, Dani Menkin’s documentary about Aulcie Perry, an American basketball player who led Maccabi Tel Aviv to an upset win in the European Championship. Perry’s life makes for a fascinating story that is by turns tragic, funny and moving, as he speaks candidly about how he embraced Judaism, his relationship with the late Israeli model Tami Ben-Ami, the knee pain that led him to turn to drugs, his prison term in the US and his return to Israel after conquering his addiction.
The New York Jewish Film Festival, which runs from January 15-28, is showing Aulcie as its opening-night film.
Incitement, Yaron Zilberman’s critically acclaimed drama that looks into the mind and motivation of Yigal Amir, the man who assassinated prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, won the Ophir Award for Best Picture this year, and will also be screened at both the Miami and New York festivals. The New York Jewish Film Festival will include a Master Class with Zilberman.
Incitement will also be shown at the Palm Springs International Film Festival. Palm Springs is not a Jewish film festival but features a large and varied selection of films from the Middle East. It runs in Palm Springs, California, from January 3-13.
While Incitement may have been the biggest critical success in Israel this year, the most popular film locally was Guy Amir and Hanan Savyon’s Forgiveness, a funny and sentimental look at two small-time hoods and their search for redemption and cash, not necessarily in that order, in a town on the border with Gaza. Forgiveness will also be showing at all three of these film festivals in January, and US audiences will see for themselves whether this kind of humor travels. Their previous film, Maktub, which featured an extremely Israeli type of humor, proved to be a hit on the international film festival circuit.
ALON GUR Arye’s Mossad, a hit comedy in the style of Airplane!, stars Tsahi Halevi and will be shown in Miami.
Douze Points is another Israeli comedy that will be showing at Palm Springs. Directed by Daniel Syrkin, its title refers to the fact that “Douze points” is the highest score available in the Eurovision Song Contest, which is the backdrop to this satire about a gay Muslim representing France at the competition in Tel Aviv.
Other Israeli offerings at Palm Springs will include the controversial documentary Advocate, about a lawyer who has defended terrorists, and Sameh Zoabi’s comedy Tel Aviv on Fire.
God of the Piano, a drama featuring classical music by Itay Tal, looks at a mother who is devoted to music and who struggles to cope when her baby is born deaf, and will be shown in New York and Miami.
Miami will also feature Yaron Shani’s Chained, the second part in his trilogy of films about love, which deals with an angry police officer on a downward spiral; The Electrifiers by Boaz Armoni, a comedy about a middle-aged one-hit wonder who won’t give up on his band; Levi Zini’s documentary, Menachem Begin: Peace and War; Oren Gerner’s Africa, about an elderly man trying to stay connected to the world around him; and Yossi Atia’s Born in Jerusalem and Still Alive, a black comedy about how a man copes with trauma from terror attacks by becoming a tour guide.
The Day After I’m Gone, directed by Nimrod Eldar, stars Menashe Noy in a drama about a father whose daughter becomes suicidal, and will be shown at the New York Jewish Film Festival.
All these festivals feature many acclaimed movies with Jewish themes from the world outside Israel, and each festival has its own distinct character.
Given the heavily Latino population of Miami, it’s fitting that the Miami Jewish Film Festival has added a section this year that spotlights Ibero-American Cinema, featuring six acclaimed films from Argentina, Spain and Brazil.
One highlight of this year’s New York Jewish Film Festival will be a 50th anniversary screening of Vittorio De Sica’s classic, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis, the story of a doomed Jewish family’s struggles during the rise of fascism.