The year of the Israeli film

A look at the local contributions to this year's film festival.

film reel 88 (photo credit: )
film reel 88
(photo credit: )
Never have Israeli films been showered with so many awards worldwide as in 2007. Dror Shaul's Sweet Mud took the top prize at Sundance for international features; Joseph Cedar won the Best Director Award at the Berlin Film Festival for Beaufort; David Volach's My Father My Lord won the top prize for foreign features at Tribeca; and Meduzot by Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen received the prestigious Camera d'Or award at Cannes. Jerusalem Film Festival director Lia van Leer attributes this wave of international success to the greater variety of topics dealt with by Israeli films. "Israeli movies used to be all about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, many of them are about human relationships and people seem to enjoy them more." Another winner at Cannes will be among the films competing for the Wolgin Award for Features at the 24th Jerusalem Film Festival (there are also Wolgin Awards given for Best Documentary, Best Short, Best Actor and Best Actress): The Band's Visit. Directed by Eran Kolirin and starring Sasson Gabay, this film tells the story of an Egyptian police band visiting Israel, whose members get lost and see an unexpected side of the country. It was awarded three prizes at Cannes: the International Critics Prize, the Youth Prize and Prix Coup de Coeur/Un Certain Regard. Raphael Nadjari's Tehillim, about a Jerusalem father who suddenly disappears, was in the main competition at Cannes and will also be shown as part of the Wolgin competition. Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv's Strangers looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but from an unusual vantage point. It tells the story of a kibbutznik (Liron Levo who starred in Kippur) in Berlin. There he meets Rana (Lubna Azabal of Paradise Now), a Palestinian woman, while they watch the World Cup finals on television. Other Israeli ills are addressed in Joint Venture by Emmanuel Maccache and Stephane Belaisch, where a disparate group of Israelis and foreign workers go on a strange road trip from Jerusalem to the desert. In Mushon Salmona's Vasermil, three teens from a tough Beersheba neighborhood join forces to play soccer. Van Leer says she received hundreds of submissions for the Documentary Wolgin Award category and that narrowing it down to 13 was no easy task. The chosen 13 tackle such subjects as transgender identity (); an Israeli-Arab couple who decide to move to Spain (On Hold); the tribulations of women soldiers (Summer Seeds); the dreams of a Moscow-born artist (A Fool's DreamChildren of the Sun); Holocaust-themed pornography during the Sixties (Stalags: Holocaust and Pornography in Israel); and the life of enigmatic Greek singer Aris San (The Mystery of Aris San). The quality of made-for-television films has been extremely high in recent years, and the Anat Pirchi Awards are given to the best television features and documentaries. There will also be three programs of Israeli short films (where you may catch a sneak preview of the next Cannes winner), student films and an extensive program devoted to the best of Israeli animated films. Finally, "Cinema Jerusalem" will look at highlights from movies currently being made in Jerusalem. For more coverage of the Jerusalem Film Festival, see Billboard.