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  • Jerusalem of Film

    Jerusalem Post
    June 30 2006

    Jerusalem of Film


    Israeli film buffs, your prayers have been answered. The 23rd
    Jerusalem Film Festival, which runs from July 6-15 at the Jerusalem
    Cinematheque and other Jerusalem theaters, has a star-studded guest
    list, led by Life Achievement Award winner Roman Polanski, director
    of such classics as Rosemary's Baby and Chinatown, who will be here
    to present his latest film, a new, grittier version of Oliver Twist.
    In addition to Polanski, this year's festival will host movie stars
    and directors who will thrill serious cineastes and more casual movie
    lovers alike and will feature nearly 200 movies from all over the

    "This year, we have some very gifted people coming," says Lia van
    Leer, Jerusalem Film Festival founder and director, as well as
    founder of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, in an understatement. "And we
    have some wonderful films."

    In the movie star category, there's actress Debra Winger (An Officer
    and a Gentleman, Terms of Endearment), who will be attending the
    festival as a juror for the Wolgin Awards for Israeli Features and
    the Drama Award in Memory of Anat Pirchi. She also narrates the
    newest documentary by Lily Rivlin, Can You Hear Me? Israeli and
    Palestinian Women Fight for Peace. Actress Kim Cattrall, best known
    as Samantha on the television show Sex and the City, will also be
    attending as part of a Canadian delegation (please see sidebar on
    special programs). Other festival guests (at presstime) include
    director Chen Kaige, here with his latest film, The Promise ; Istvan
    Szabo, who will present Relatives ; actress Julie Depardieu (daughter
    of Gerard), the star of Sauf Le Respect Que Je Vous Dois ; and
    Baltasar Kormakur, director of A Little Trip to Heaven, best known
    for Reykjaviik 101.
    Achievement Award winners this year are Atom Egoyan, the Canada-based
    director of Armenian descent, whose 2002 film, Ararat will be
    screened; producer Robert Lantos, who has made such films as
    eXistenZ, Felicia's Journey and Being Julia and who first visited
    Israel as a water polo player for the Canadian team in the 1969
    Maccabiah Games; and director/actor Eli Cohen, who has made such
    films as summer of Aviya and the documentary in the current festival,
    Fence, Wall, Border . . .
    It's no surprise that an Israeli shares the honors with distinguished
    foreign winners, because this festival is the coming-out party for
    the Israeli film industry: It has officially come of age. Two years
    ago, the success - both here and abroad - of such movies as Avi
    Nesher's Turn Left at the End of the World, Eytan Fox's Walk on
    Water, Joseph Cedar's Campfire, Keren Yedaya's Or, Gidi Dar's
    Ushpizin, Eran Riklis The Syrian Bride and many other Israeli films
    came as a surprise. Now, with Israeli films picking up major awards
    at festivals all over the world, the time has come to acknowledge
    Israel's place in international cinema and van Leer has chosen to
    mark this passage by opening the festival with an Israeli film for
    the first time ever.

    On July 6 at the Sultan's Pool amphitheater, before a crowd of
    thousands, Oded Davidoff's Someone to Run With, an adaptation of
    David Grossman's bestselling novel will play on a giant screen. It
    tells the story of a teenage boy and girl in Jerusalem who meet while
    tracking down a lost dog and the girl's drug-addicted brother.
    Following the screening, there will be an opening party right nearby
    at The Lab.

    Someone to Run With is just one of a large group of promising Israeli
    films competing this year for the Wolgin Awards (see sidebar on
    Israeli cinema). Fourteen films from all over the world will also
    compete for the Wim van Leer in the Spirit of Freedom Awards, which
    are given in memory of Lia van Leer's husband and deal with the quest
    for freedom.

    The festival has a special section on French cinema, which now
    includes films in French from Francophone countries around the world.
    Abderrahmane Sissako's Bamako is set in Mali and interweaves stories
    about families in a courtyard with a mock-trial of World Bank
    officials. Alain Tasma's Nuit Noire, 17 Octobre 1961 is a feature
    film about a massacre in France of Algerians who protested the French
    occupation of that country. Well-known French directors such as
    festival guest Chantal Ackerman are also in the lineup. Her latest
    film, a documentary called La Bas, is a film diary about her 2005
    stay in Tel Aviv and her feelings about her own Judaism.

    The rich Panorama Section features movies from all over the world,
    including American movies with big-name stars such as Jennifer
    Aniston, who appears in Nicole Holofcener's Friends with Money.
    Sidney Lumet's latest film, the crime thriller Find Me Guilty
    starring Vin Diesel, will be shown. But some of the most intriguing
    films come from Asia, including Hong Kong director Johnnie To's
    Election and Election II look at the succession in a Sopranos-style
    crime family. Super-cool Japanese crime star "Beat" Takeshi is faced
    with an imposter in Takeshis'. The life of a family living in the
    Mongolian plains is the focus of The Cave of the Yellow Dog,
    Byambasuren Davaa's follow-up to his international hit, The Story of
    the Weeping Camel.

    Latin American films also have a strong presence, with such movies as
    Claudia Llosa's Madeinusa, about a young woman in a remote Peruvian
    village who sees a way out when a geologist comes to town.

    As you flip through the 300-page festival catalog, certain themes
    emerge. "There are wars everywhere, but there is also daily violence.
    There are the same problems all over the world," van Leer comments.
    As in past years, many of the films deal with refugees and others who
    don't feel at home in the countries they live. For example,
    Lebanese-born, Sweden-based Josef Fares' latest film, Zozo, looks at
    a teenage boy moving from Beirut to Sweden. And a special program of
    films from the Sarajevo Film Festival examines the fallout from that
    country's civil war, with films such as Jasmila Zbanic's Grbavica,
    the story of a Sarajevo girl searching for the truth about what her
    father did during the war.
    The trend of strong documentaries continues with such films as Micha
    Peled's China Blue, a look at Chinese migrants from rural areas to
    the cities; A Lion in the House, a portrait of children coping with
    cancer; festival guest director Alan Berliner's latest, personal look
    at the universal problem of insomnia, Wide Awake; The Pervert's Guide
    to the Cinema, a portrait of festival guest philosopher and
    psychoanalyst Slavoj Zizek by Sophie Fiennes (sister of actors Ralph
    and Joseph); Ashim Ahluwalia's John & Jane shows what really goes on
    in a Mumbay international call center; and Deborah Scranton's The War
    Tapes focuses on three American soldiers in Iraq who document their
    experiences with video cameras.

    Werner Herzog is represented at the festival by two documentaries,
    The White Diamond, about zeppelins and The Wild Blue Yonder, a
    quasi-documentary look at people who believe in aliens. He is also
    the subject of a third documentary, Walking to Werner.
    The Jewish Experience program also features some intriguing
    documentaries, including Mimmo Calopresti's Volevo Solo Vivere, a
    look at Italian concentration camp survivors. Among the feature films
    vying for the Jewish Experience Awards are Song of Songs, Josh
    Appignanesi's look at British ultra-Orthodox; Richard Dembo's La
    Maison de Nina, about a Jewish refugee from Greece who sets up an
    orphanage after World War II; and Nina's Journey, Lena Einhorn's look
    at her family's fight to survive the Holocaust in Poland.

    Festival consultant Vivian Ostrovsky spotlights the best of
    avant-garde cinema in her "Carte Blanche" program, including a look
    at multi-media artist Matthew Barney, Matthew Barney: No Restraint.