An indie state of mind

Independent style and spirit prevail this month at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

‘Learning to drive’ movie (photo credit: PR)
‘Learning to drive’ movie
(photo credit: PR)
American independent cinema is still on top of the world.
This year, indies feature prominently on the list of movies nominated for the Best Picture Oscar, including Boyhood, Whiplash, Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel. The Jerusalem Cinematheque celebrates the best in American independent films with its annual States of Mind festival, which runs from February 21 through the end of the month and features a number of movies that haven’t yet been released here.
All kinds of feature films, as well as documentaries, are included in this program. The independent film landscape has changed a great deal in recent years, and now indie films attract top-tier talent. Stars who are looking for strong scripts rather than big paychecks are as likely to turn up in these movies as are unknown young actors.
Two veteran Oscar winners – Al Pacino and Holly Hunter – star in Manglehorn, directed by David Gordon Green, who has made such cult favorites as Pineapple Express. Pacino plays a strange, lonely man who is trying to come to terms with the loss of an old love, and Hunter is a woman who may or may not bring new romance into his life.
Peace after Marriage is an outrageously funny comedy written, directed by and starring Ghazi Albuliwi, a Jordanian-born Palestinian stand-up comedian who has clearly been inspired by Woody Allen. He plays a Brooklyn would-be hipster named Arafat, who lives at home and finds solace in his porn collection. When he agrees to marry an Israeli woman who needs a Green Card, his parents are not pleased, to put it mildly, and try to break up the marriage. Albuliwi is not afraid to be politically incorrect and actually attended the Jerusalem Jewish Film Festival last year, where his movie was the opening-night film.
Vera Farmiga and Andy Garcia are at the center of At Middleton, a dramedy about single parents taking their children on a college campus tour and find themselves drawn to each other.
Claudia Myers, who made the well-received 2006 film Kettle of Fish, has a new feature, Fort Bliss.
The movie, which is a festival favorite, has won awards all over the world. It stars Michelle Monaghan as a single mother who is a medic in the US army but finds that her tours of duty in Afghanistan take a toll on her relationship with her young son.
Ron Livingston, who played the guy who dumped Carrie via a post-it in Sex and the City, stars as the boy’s father.
Isabel Coixet, best known for My Life without Me, directed Learning to Drive. The movie stars Patricia Clarkson as Wendy, a literary critic whose marriage has just fallen apart. Her daughter (Grace Gummer, who in real life is Meryl Streep’s daughter) invites her to visit in Vermont, but there is no public transportation, and lifelong New Yorker Wendy must learn to drive first. Ben Kingsley plays her driving instructor, a Sikh from Pakistan who has his own troubles planning his upcoming wedding.
The two bond in unexpected ways.
Garrett Bradley’s feature-film debut Below Dreams is about rootless young people trying to connect in New York and New Orleans.
Two recent documentaries are also among the offerings. Nadja Oertelt and Anna Wexler co-directed Unorthodox, which chronicles Wexler’s journey from growing up an Orthodox Jew to living a secular life. She initially made her break from Orthodoxy with friends, but they returned to the fold. In the documentary, she tracks them down to talk to them about their decisions.
Advanced Style, directed by Lina Plioplyte, is a charming look at seven older New York fashionistas who find that dressing stylishly and not trying to look like a 20-year-old is the best revenge.
The States of Mind Film Festival is presented in partnership with the US Embassy and will run at the Tel Aviv, Haifa, Herzliya Cinematheques and the Holon Mediateque as well as at the Jerusalem Cinematheque.For more information, go to the website at .
To get more information and to buy tickets, go to the Jerusalem Cinematheque website at