Yossi Brouman (02/06/2012)
This is the golden age of the Israeli silver screen. What better time to celebrate the first Israeli film festival in London?
All this means that than now is the perfect time for Seret, the first ever Israeli Film and TV festival in London. Across its 5 days (14-18 of June), Seret will screen selected episodes of the series Yellow Peppers and Ramzor (see our interview with its creator, Adir Miller), and their creators will be guests of the festival, alongside 16 films, mostly from the last year.
A Gift to Stalin, an Israeli-Kazakh-Russian-Polish co-production, follows the friendship between Sashka, a Jewish boy, and Kasym, a railroad worker who saves his life and takes him to Kazakhstan in 1949. At the centre of Invisible, documentary filmmaker Michal Aviad’s first feature film, stands rape. Yevgenya Dudina and Ronit Elkabetz play the victims/heroes, who first meet at an identity parade prior to the start point of the movie. Now they meet again, years after seemingly recovering and coping, and this unusual narrative choice allows a combined point of view – internal and external, personal and public.
The Fifth Heaven – a film by Dina Riklis, yet to be commercially screened in Israel – is about the relationship of girls living in an orphanage in Jerusalem during the British Mandate. Both movies will be followed by a talk with the directors after the screening. Another movie dealing with female relationships is “Lipstikka” by Jonathan Sagall. Clara Huri and Natali Atiya play two young women immigrated from Ramallah dealing with a past emotional, sexually complicated relationship and one traumatic event in Jerusalem, years ago.
The films The Queen Has No Crown and I Shot My Love were born out of The Way Home, the prize winning exemplary documentary series by the filmmaker and guest of the festival Tomer Heymann. The former is about the relationship of the director with his mother, whose children are leaving the nest and emigrating to the USA, and the latter Heymann’s relationship with his partner, the German dancer, Andreas Merk.
Another poignant yet very different family story is “Who Shot My Father?”, a startling documentary by Liora Amir Barmatz. The three daughters of Israeli Air Force Attachי in Washington Colonel Joe Alon, who was assassinated in his back yard in 1973, follow the footsteps of the mysterious assassin who was never discovered. With time, more sides of the story are exposed, including its influence on the Yom Kippur War.
The Fifth Heaven
2 Night by Roi Werner has drawn comparisons to Richard Linklater’s romantic movie Before Sunset. The story plays out in real time in Tel Aviv, showing how two youngsters fall in love while looking for parking on their way to a one night stand. The Flood, by Guy Nativ, is about a small family dealing with raising a son with autism. The film is shot and acted superbly, and out of the impressive cast including Tzahi Grad, Michael Moshonov and Ronit Elkabetz, the most remarkable is Yoav Rotman, the 13 year-old boy playing the child learning for his Bar Mitzvah in the midst of all the havoc.
There is little need to elaborate about Joseph Cedar’s film Footnote, but, for those who haven’t seen it yet, this is a lovely, small drama about a great rivalry between a father and son who are both eccentric professors. The film received an Oscar nomination in the best foreign language film category, mainly due to one unforgettable scene, written and directed perfectly, where Uriel (Lior Ashkenazi) learns about a small yet crucial mistake, which could make him pay a heavy price.
A Gift To Stalin
Other screenings include My Kosher Shifts, a short movie by Iris Zaki, which won a prestigious prize (see our profile last month); films from graduates of the Tel Aviv University Film School with actors such as Lia Koenig and Oded Teomi; a British pre-premiere screening of the film Sharaqiya, about a young Bedouin protesting against the demolition of his village in a unique, surprising way.
The beginning of tradition
Most of the screenings will be followed by a Q&A session with the creators, who will arrive especially from Israel. The filmmakers, writers and producers themselves will get the opportunity to meet and greet top industry producers, distributors, British screenwriters and directors in an invite-only closed event called Industry Day, hosted by Sharon Harel Cohen and the production company West End Films. “The aim of this day is to introduce our filmmakers,” says Ruth Lev Ari, an experienced film producer who works as an editor and presenter for this event. “We wanted to prevent artists such as Adir Miller (Ramzor), Keren Margalit (Yellow Peppers), Tomer Heymann and Roi Werner arriving in London without leaving an impression on the industry people in London. We decided to give them a platform to present their work and talk about their future projects with the local industry, in order to tighten their plans better. Today there’s already a co-production agreement between the Israeli culture ministry and the British one, and it is much easier to create such collaborations.”
“We hope this will turn into a tradition,” says Iris Ambor, the Israeli Counsellor for Cultural Affairs, “Israeli films are a great way to experience Israel and visit the country for the cost of a movie ticket. ‘Israeli House’, which is in charge of the connection with the local Israeli community, and the cultural department at the embassy, in charge of presenting Israeli culture in Britain, hope the festival will be successful, and the films will give a better understanding of Israeli culture to all the moviegoers.”
The festival organisers are Odelia Haroush, Anat Koren and Patty Hochman. “I love the movies. We are proper DVD collectors at home and I wanted to take this love of mine and combine it with what I do best – marketing and PR,” says Haroush, a marketing and advertising professional. “The idea started taking shape in June last year, when I connected with Anat, the editor and publisher of Alondon, who told me it’s been a dream of hers for many years to establish an Israeli film festival in London, and together with Patty, the cinema department director of Cinema Typ and a member of the Israeli film academy who lives in Israel, and due to her role is well in the know of all the new movies; what’s good and what’s not-so-much, what the industry is saying.”
The Queen Has No Crown
“This is the first time there’s an Israeli film festival in Britain, alongside many other festivals from countries from all over the globe – Brazil, India, France, Italy and many others – including a Palestinian festival which has been taking place for many years and is supported by public British funds,” adds Koren. “In The States there’s been a similar festival taking place in many cities for the past 30 years, and recently Israeli film festivals have also taken place in Paris, Strasbourg and Amsterdam. I am happy we got the opportunity to present the human side of life in Israel in Britain, the different day-to-day challenges, and not necessarily the political ones.
What will the festival look like next year?
Haroush: “Bigger, stronger, fuller. At the moment we have had such a wonderful reaction already to the festival, which is being held in a limited yet quality format, and I am sure next year we will only thrive and spread our wings.”
Further details in our listings.
Off White Lines, by invitation only, 20:00
A Gift to Stalin, Everyman Belsize Park 10:00
The Fifth Heaven, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 20:00
Who Sot My Father?, Everyman Baker Street, 11:00
Ramzor, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 15:00
The Queen Has No Crown, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 17:00
Invisible, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 20:00
My Kosher Shifts and I Shot My Love, Everyman, Maida Vale, 10:00
The Flood, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 14:00
Yellow Peppers, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 15:00
Tel Aviv University films: Eva is Leaving, A Wonderful Day, the Decision Maker and Ramlod, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 15:00
Sharqiya, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 17:00
Footnote, Odeon Swiss Cottage, 20:00
Lipstikka, Ivy House, 19:30
2 Night, Everyman, Hampstead, 20:30
Read this article in Hebrew.
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