Cinefile: Wolman’s world

Three cinematheques will run a retrospective of Dan Wolman’s films.

Dan Wolman's films (photo credit: PR)
Dan Wolman's films
(photo credit: PR)
Dan Wolman is one of Israel’s most distinguished and versatile veteran directors, and his films will be the subject of a retrospective at the Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and Haifa cinematheques.
His deeply personal movies often deal with lovers who face obstacles, as well as such controversial subjects as homosexuality and the absorption of immigrants. His career began in the first golden age of Israeli cinema, with the serious art films of the 1970s, and his work has been an integral part of the current boom in the Israeli film industry.
The retrospective opens at the Jerusalem Cinematheque on May 17 with My Michael at 7 p.m. and later in the month in Tel Aviv and Haifa and will continue into June.
My Michael is a 1975 adaptation of the acclaimed Amos Oz novel. It stars Efrat Lavie as Hanna, the heroine, who marries her Michael (Oded Kotler), has a child with him, and then finds herself descending into madness. The film is set in Jerusalem just before the Six Day War, where both Oz and Wolman grew up. If you know the city, you will recognize many of the locations.
Other highlights of the festival include Gei Oni (2010), also known as Valley of Strength, which tells the story of Fania (Tamar Alkan), a young woman who comes to Israel from Russia at the end of the 19th century. She is responsible for her infant daughter, elderly uncle and disabled brother, who are the only survivors of a pogrom in their shtetl. They are penniless and trying to survive in Jaffa when she meets Yechiel, a Jew who was born in Palestine. His wife has died, and he is looking for a new one to help him raise his young children. Fania doesn’t feel as if she has much of a choice and marries him and goes with him to an isolated settlement near Safed.
The two begin to fall in love, but a secret that Fania won’t share with anyone threatens their relationship.
The 2013 movie New Voice is the result of three years of cooperation between Dan Wolman and the National Academy of Chinese Theatre Arts, with the help of the Israeli Embassy. The film is about Beijing opera singer Han and his son Liu. The cast includes music teachers and students.
The Dreamer (1970), one of Wolman’s earliest films, is an unusual love story. It tells the tale of Eli (Tuvia Tavi), a handyman in a nursing home who becomes close to one of the residents, an older woman who treats him like a son. When a young woman (Liora Rivlin) comes to the home to arrange her grandfather’s funeral, Eli befriends her.
Wolman’s 1972 movie Floch was co-written by playwright Hanoch Levin, and the dark story is very much in keeping with most of Levin’s work. It is about a 70-year-old man (Avraham Chalfi) whose son, daughter-in-law and grandson are killed in a car accident. Understandably depressed, he becomes obsessed with leaving an heir and abandons his wife, determined to find a young woman with whom to have another child.
The first Israeli feature film to deal with homosexuality, Hide and Seek (1979) tells the story of a boy during the British Mandate period whose tutor, Balaban (Doron Tavori), is homosexual.
Wolman later revisited the theme of the homosexual as outsider in the 2006 feature Tied Hands, where Gila Almagor stars as a mother trying to come to terms with her son, a homosexual who is dying of AIDS in Tel Aviv.
Scapegoat, Wolman’s 1992 film, is about a boy from Iraq trying to fit in on a kibbutz in the 1950s.
Spoken with Love is a 2007 documentary that is a portrait of Wolman’s parents’ tender relationship.
While the themes Wolman explores in the movie are universal, his parents’ lives make for an unusual story, since they met in fascist Italy. When Wolman was eight, his father became the personal physician of Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie. The movie examines this, as well as uncovering some shocking family secrets.
The retrospective will also include a program of Wolman’s short films.
The cinematheque websites have full details of the schedule and all the films.