Galilee Action

The northern version of DocAviv screens 30 local and international films.

Galilee Action (photo credit: inbar abt)
Galilee Action
(photo credit: inbar abt)
Anyone who has ever put on some cultural event of significant scope and proportions outside the hinterland of Tel Aviv knows just how hard it can be – to borrow a quaint but graphic Britishism – to “put bums on seats.” But Sinai Abt has managed to keep the Galilee version of the prestigious Tel Aviv-based documentary film festival going into its fourth year.
The artistic director has put together an impressive program of screenings for the five-day bash, which will take place at Ma’alot-Tarshiha from November 26 to 30.
There are 30 works in the lineup, from here and around the world, with a couple of local premieres in the offing. The highest-profile item on the DocAviv Galilee roster is Undefeated, which won this year’s Oscar for best documentary feature. It is a stirring story of a previously hapless highschool football team from Memphis that hits an unexpected winning streak.
Once in a Lullaby also has a connection with that most glittering of Hollywood events. It tells the tale of a choir of fifth-graders from a Staten Island school that went on from singing in their own auditorium to performing the closing slot at the Oscar Awards ceremony.
Other prominent imports at DocAviv Galilee include the acclaimed account of Ai Weiwei’s struggle with China’s authorities for artistic and personal freedom, Never Sorry, and Oma & Bella, an intimate portrait of the lives of two elderly Jewish women who survived the concentration camps and spend much of their time making multicourse meals while doing their best to keep a hold on their pre-Holocaust past. There is also a chance to get a handle on what made late Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs tick at a screening of Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview, which was shot in 1995.
Abt is understandably proud of having dibs on some of the documentaries. “This year, we’ve got some films that haven’t been shown in Israel before,” he notes – like Undefeated. “That’s not bad for a place like Ma’alot-Tarshiha, is it?”
There are also locally produced first showings. “Assi Dayan’s Life as a Rumor hasn’t been seen anywhere else in the country before. And there’s the film about [iconic Israeli rock group] Mashina, The Albums.” In fact, the latter project will, by the time DocAviv Galilee gets under way, be hot off the presses.
“The film’s not quite finished yet,” said Abt a couple of weeks before the festival kicked off, “but it will be OK.”
There are several other music-based items at the festival. One of the more emotive ones is The Way Back, which tells the incredible story of veteran mega-star singer Rivka Zohar, who was at the pinnacle of the local music scene in the late 1960s and early 1970s. However, Zohar and her then-husband got caught up in the drug scene of the time and left for the States. The Way Back catches up with Zohar, who returned to Israel in the 1980s after 12 years in New York, as she undertakes a journey to some of the most painful episodes of her past, but from a much healthier place.
Marley is a portrayal of the life, music and legacy of the late superstar reggae musician, while A Man in His Room offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the life and work of veteran songsmith Yoni Rechter, the most private member of seminal pop group Kaveret. That’s quite a scoop.
“The film is part of a Channel 8 series called ‘Cultural Heroes,’” Abt explains. “Anat Zeltzer compiled the series and also directed the documentary on Yoni.When you see the film, you realize just how private a person he really is.”
With such a rich and wide-ranging rundown of films on offer this year, one might ask whether, in fact, the Galilee is not that far away, in cultural terms, from the center of the country. As luck would have it, that very notion is the subject of a seminar that will take place during the festival, which goes by the name of “Can You Make Movies Far from the Center?”
“Please note there’s a question mark at the end of the name of the seminar.It’s not a statement of fact,” Abt is quick to point out. “I do think there are things you can do in the periphery, and you don’t have to be in the center of the country to do them. However, the artists who want to create here sometimes pose tough questions, and get the feeling that all the budgets and the screenings and the action all happen in the center of the country. They feel far away from where things are happening. But, as I think we’ll see in the panel discussion during the festival, that it’s not cut-and-dried.”
One of the celebrity guests at DocAviv Galilee is renowned photographer Alex Libak. The Israel Prize recipient will host two exhibitions, with very different themes, at the Apter Barrer Arts Center in Ma’alot- Tarshiha. The first show is called “The Paparazzi of the Anonymous,” with works by Libak, while the second exhibition, “Flight for the Soul,” was curated by Libak and features pictures shot by patients of the Sharon Psychological Health Center who took part in a photography workshop presented by Libak. Patrons of the festival will also be able to get the lowdown on the celebrated photographer at a screening of a profile of Libak called Alex in Wonderland, which will be shown on the opening evening.
“Alex’s work with the people in his workshop is very moving,” states Abt. “I am glad there will be a sort of tribute to him at the festival. He is a very impressive personality.”
Part of the festival’s raison d’etre is to encourage local would-be filmmakers to pick up a camera. That is the motive behind the “Wings” slot in the festival program, which features short documentaries that portray local personalities who all work in the Galilee. The films were made as part of a workshop held at the Apter Barrer Arts Center run by seasoned documentarists Yael Kipper Zaretzki and Ronen Zaretzki.
And, just in case watching all those films gets the audiences’ tummy juices worked up, the DocAviv Galilee bash will also include the now regular gastronomic spot of a home cooking competition. The contest will, naturally enough, be followed by the screening of Oma & Bella.
For more information about DocAviv Galilee: