Southern exposure

For the first time, Yeroham is hosting its own documentary film festival.

Rita (photo credit: EYAL GOLDBERG)
(photo credit: EYAL GOLDBERG)
We all know that this part of the world provides plenty of raw material for news coverage – sadly, often not of the most positive nature. By the same token, there is a plethora of topics and real life stories out there just waiting for some eagle-eyed filmmaker to come along and make a gripping documentary.
That is clearly indicated by the works on offer at next week’s Doc Aviv Festival, which will take place in Yeroham in the Negev for the first time, from January 6 to 8. Naturally, our multi-stratified cultural melting pot features in the lineup. It includes Eyal Goldberg’s film Rita Jahan Faruz, an incisive portrayal of Iranian-born veteran pop megastar Rita. She has been at the top of the entertainment ladder here for nigh on three decades, but only recently, at the age of 49, did she get around to making an album in Persian. The project took off and, as the film audience will see, eventually spawned a surprising development on the global stage.
There is more in the way of musicbased fare in the festival in the emotive portrait of Israeli indie artist Yehu Yaron, titled A Self-Persuasive Artist.
The documentary format is a definitive vehicle for delving into all manner of sensitive areas. Probation Time certainly goes there, tackling a highly contentious issue of a religious lesbian dealing with the double whammy of breaking up with her longtime partner and raising the child they had together.
On the import side of the festival program, the members of the Yeroham audience may need to get their hankies out when they watch Twin Sisters.
Norwegian filmmaker Mona Friis Bertheussen documents the compelling story of how twin sisters from China, who were separated as babies and adopted by families in Norway and America, finally get to reunite.
The inaugural Yeroham edition of Doc Aviv is based on the theme of identity, and one of the stellar items on the festival roster is an intriguing work by Moroccan-born French director Kamal Hachkar called Tinghir – Jerusalem Echoes from the Mellah, subheaded The Rediscovery of a Judeo-Berber Culture. Hachkar was born in Tinghir, near the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The small town once had a thriving Jewish community before the mass exodus of Jews to Israel and elsewhere in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Hachkar’s film, which will open the festival, is tailor-made for Yeroham, which has a sizable Moroccan community. The director frequently comes to this country to meet Israelis of Moroccan extract, including some who were born in Tinghir. And he has acquired a good command of Hebrew in the process.
Hachkar will be one of the guests at next week’s documentary festival, along with TV personality Tzofit Grant; Beersheba-born director, writer and actor Maor Zaguri; and award-winning Yeroham-born director, scriptwriter and producer David Deri.
As a native of Yeroham, Deri’s participation in Doc Aviv’s debut in his hometown is a particularly pleasing occurrence in itself. Deri’s impressive CV includes overseeing the Avudim (Lost) documentary series and his daring 2005 work Say Amen, a personal account of how now 39-year-old Deri, an Orthodox Jew, reveals his homosexuality to his parents and siblings. The film was placed in the top five documentaries of 2005 by the Israeli Film Academy and has been shown at festivals around the globe.
While Deri is delighted to be on next week’s Doc Aviv roster, he is keen to note the across-the-board cultural resurgence taking place in the Negev town.
“It is very moving to have the festival in Yeroham. I think it is another symbol of the long process that Yeroham has been undergoing for the last few years.
The powers-that-be have begun to recognize the fact that Yeroham should get the support it hasn’t had for a long time,” he says.
Yeroham Local Council head Michael Biton is certainly appreciative of state assistance and the festival organizers’ decision to move south.
“Doc Aviv Negev Yeroham is a unique festival that tells the real story of the individual and the community,” he says. “The festival is part of the process of creating a vigorous cultural scene in Yeroham and the Negev. Making a film festival accessible to the Negev and Yeroham is a welcome step by numerous contributing parties.”
Biton also admits to a penchant for the format. “For me, documentary films have always been a favorite and moving genre, and I believe and hope that the Yeroham Doc Aviv Festival will become a tradition here,” says Biton.
Deri applauds Biton’s stance and the work he does in Yeroham.
“I appreciate what he is doing, but I think it is the result of far more of the work of one person or another. Things are changing in Yeroham, and people are making things happen after the town endured a long period of difficulty,” he says.
Deri feels that Doc Aviv is a particularly welcome local development.
“This festival, by definition, is designed to address the problems of the country’s periphery and the challenges faced by development towns – and you could say that Yeroham is a classic example of this. So it is very exciting that the Doc Aviv people decided to hold the festival in Yeroham,” says Deri.
During the course of Doc Aviv in Yeroham, Deri will present a master class about the town’s portrayal in his work and in the media in general. He hopes that the local residents’ appetite for documentary offerings will be whetted by their upcoming exposure to the format.
“Documentary film is not something that people in Yeroham tend to be aware of,” he notes.
“Documentary screenings in this country take place at venues that are at least an hour’s drive from Yeroham. The fact that the types of films screened at Doc Aviv in Tel Aviv will make their way to Yeroham is more than exciting – it’s wonderful.”
All events at Doc Aviv Yerohan are free of charge. For more information visit