DAVID CRONENBERG’S latest film, Crimes of the Future.  (photo credit: JERUSALEM FILM FESTIVAL)
DAVID CRONENBERG’S latest film, Crimes of the Future. (photo credit: JERUSALEM FILM FESTIVAL)
Great guests, great movies at the 39th Jerusalem Film Fest

The 39th Jerusalem Film Festival, which runs from July 21-31 at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, will be back in full force as one of Israel’s most anticipated and enjoyable cultural events of the year. 

After 2020, when the festival was postponed and then ran only online, and 2021, when Tel Aviv resident Quentin Tarantino gave the festival its international flavor, this year’s festival will feature numerous distinguished guests from abroad. Between the guests and the more than 200 films from more than 50 countries, this is looking to be one of the strongest festivals in years. The festival was founded by the late Lia van Leer in 1984 and Roni Mahadav-Levin is the Cinematheque CEO and the festival director and Elad Samorzik is the artistic director. 

Ruben Östlund, the acclaimed Swedish director, will attend to present his latest film, Triangle of Sadness, a sometimes outrageous social satire, which won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes film festival this year. Triangle of Sadness will be the opening-night film and it will be screened at the Sultan’s Pool amphitheater. There will also be a retrospective of Östlund’s work, including his previous film, The Square, another black comedy, this one about the art world, which also won the Palme d’Or at Cannes, as well as his film, Force Majeure, a drama about how a single moment alters a family’s life irrevocably. After the screening of Force Majeure, Östlund will give a talk about his work. 

Other guests will include actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, the well-known actress who starred in a number of films by Lars von Trier, including Nymphomaniac and Antichrist, as well as Eric Barbier’s Promise at Dawn, Todd Haynes’s I’m Not There and Joseph Cedar’s Norman. She is also a singer and is the daughter of Jane Birkin and the late Serge Gainsbourg. Her latest film, The Accusation, which was directed by her partner, Yvan Attal, will be shown in the Gala section, and Attal will be a guest, as will their son, Ben Attal, who stars in the drama about a young man accused of rape. They will discuss the film at a screening. Gainsbourg stars in two other films that will be shown at the festival, Michel Franco’s Sundown and Mikhaël Hers’s The Passengers of the Night

German director Volker Schlöndorff, whose films include The Tin Drum and The Lost Honor of Katharina Blum, will be one of the festival jurors and will present The Forestmaker, a documentary about environmental issues in Africa, and will hold a master class on working with actors. 

 ‘HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A Journey, A Song’ by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine. (credit: JERUSALEM FILM FESTIVAL) ‘HALLELUJAH: LEONARD COHEN, A Journey, A Song’ by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine. (credit: JERUSALEM FILM FESTIVAL)

Cambodian director Rithy Panh will present his latest film, Everything Will Be OK, a combination of documentary and fantasy that promises to be as compelling and innovative as his Oscar-nominated documentary, The Missing Picture. 

The Gala section features two documentaries about distinguished Jewish musicians named Leonard: Douglas Tirola’s Bernstein’s Wall, a portrait of Leonard Bernstein, and Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine (who will attend the festival), which examines Bernstein’s work through a close look at his song “Hallelujah.”’

Israeli and international competitions

The festival will feature both Israeli and international competitions. The International Competition will include Broker, the latest film by Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose Shoplifters won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. Broker is about debt-ridden workers who try to kidnap and sell a baby. Park Chan-wook directed Oldboy, and his latest, Decision to Leave, is about a police detective who falls for a victim’s wife. Ali Abbasi’s Holy Spider tells the story of a journalist investigating the killings of sex workers in Iran. Alexandru Belc’s Metronom, which won the Best Director Prize in the Un Certain Regard section of Cannes, is a complex look at a group of Romanian high school students who run afoul of the authorities in 1972. Tori and Lokita is the latest film from Belgian master directors Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, and it is a powerful look at the lives of two young African migrants in Europe. 

In the Panorama section, Abner Benaim’s Plaza Catedral tells a compelling, tragic story about a grieving mother who gets to know a street kid. It was short-listed for the Best International Feature Oscar and was developed in the Sam Spiegel Jerusalem Film Lab. 

Emre Kayis’s Anatolian Leopard, which will be shown in the Debuts section, was also developed at the Sam Spiegel Lab and is about a Turkish zookeeper who hides the death of the zoo’s star attraction. Benaim and Kayis will attend the festival. 

The festival features the In the Spirit of Freedom Competition, and the prescient Ukrainian film Reflection by Valentyn Vasyanovych tells the story of a surgeon captured by Russian forces in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine even before the war. 

In the Masters section, David Cronenberg’s latest film, Crimes of the Future, reunites him with Viggo Mortensen, the star of his film A History of Violence, which co-stars Léa Seydoux, in a story of a performance artist who can transform his organs in a weird, futuristic way. Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s latest film, A Hero, is about a man in debtor’s prison who tries to find a way out, and it won the Grand Prix at Cannes. Sergei Loznitsa’s The Natural History of Destruction is based on a W. G. Sebald novel and uses archival footage to examine questions about civilian culpability during war. 

Festival films can be heavy, and if you want a movie that is a pure pleasure, try Singin’ in the Rain, in a 4K restoration to celebrate its 70th anniversary. Set during the early days of the sound era in Hollywood, this classic was directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly and stars Kelly as well as Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor and Rita Moreno. It has one of the sharpest, funniest scripts of any musical comedy, which was written by Betty Comden and Adolph Green. The Wizard of Oz, the enduring classic starring Judy Garland, will be screened in the JFF Kids section, but don’t take children who are too young, because the Wicked Witch and the flying monkeys will be terrifying on the big screen. 

The Israel Film Archive has restored two Israeli movies that will be shown. Tawfik Abu Wael’s Atash (Thirst) tells a highly symbolic story of a power struggle in an isolated Arab family. Uri Zohar, the director/comedian/actor who became an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and who recently passed away, made his debut as a feature-film director with the 1964 film Hole in the Moon, in which he also starred. It tells a surreal story of a man who sets up a kiosk in the middle of the desert. 

Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen by Daniel Raim (who will be present at the festival) is the behind-the-scenes story of the making of Fiddler on the Roof, and features interviews with the cast and crew, including Chaim Topol, who played the lead. 

The Haggiag Competition for Israeli Feature Films will feature June Zero, by Jake Paltrow, who made the intriguing movie The Good Night and is actress Gwyneth Paltrow’s brother. The movie, which was co-written by Tom Shoval (Youth), is set in Israel in the days leading up to the execution of Adolf Eichmann and it looks at the upcoming execution through the eyes of three very different people: a corrections officer who guards Eichmann, a Holocaust survivor returning to Poland for the first time since the war and a child tasked with helping build an oven to cremate Eichmann’s remains. The cast includes Joy Rieger and Tzahi Grad.

Ofir Raul Graizer, who made the acclaimed film The Cakemaker, has a new film, America, which tells the story of an Israeli swim teacher living in Chicago who returns to Israel after a 10-years absence to bury his father. Moshe Rosenthal’s first feature film, Karaoke, stars Sasson Gabay and Rita Shukrun as a couple in their 60s who get to know a charismatic new neighbor (Lior Ashkenazi), who holds karaoke evenings at this apartment. 

Concerned Citizen, directed by Idan Haguel, tells a complex story about an upscale gay couple who discover that moving into a Tel Aviv neighborhood that is home to many migrant workers raises more issues than they expected. 

The Diamond Competition for Israeli Documentary Cinema will feature movies on the life journey of an Egyptian singer who moved to Israel; the tangled saga of a hostage in a hotel terror attack in the 1970s; the censored letters of IDF soldiers; criminal violence in Arab towns; and much more. In addition, documentaries on Sudanese refugees and the late actress/director Ronit Elkabetz will be shown. Ruth Walk’s The Partisan with the Leica Camera is about a resistance fighter and his wife who photographed the partisans in Polish forests. 

The festival will also feature competitions for short films, experimental and video art and films by high school students.

While the festival will be based at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, there will be events all over the city, most of which are free and which sound like lots of fun. For the fourth year, trucks will bring movies to neighborhoods all over and there will be events in bars with special cocktails and guests from the film industry, as well as open-air screenings and pop-up restaurants. 

Check the festival website for more details and to order tickets to the movies https://jff.org.il/en

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