The 25th edition of the Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival (TISFF) will take place from June 25 – July 1, 2023, at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque and additional venues throughout the city. Full of creative energy the festival will screen close to 100 short films from 25 countries and will host leading members of the international film industry. The festival is an all-volunteer effort, produced and run by students of The Steve Tisch School of Film & Television at Tel Aviv University.
The festival will open on June 25th at Gan HaPisga in Yafo with preview screenings of three short films, winners of the Shorts on the Way competition 2022. All three films focus on themes of immigration, experiences of alienation and a meeting of cultures, each from a different perspective. The opening ceremonies will be hosted by actor Shai Avivi. The films are:
In the Mountain’s Shade, written and directed by Maya Kessel, who cast the film with non-professional actors. Synopsis: Ming is taken from a construction site for the light rail in the middle of the workday, to a place that reminds him of the home he left.
Novi God, written and directed by Anat Eisenberg. Synopsis: 47-year-old Galina from Moldova, takes care of Nutzi with complete dedication. In all this time she has never gone out with a man. When Galina is asked out on a date, she prepares for a sexual encounter, something that has not happened in so long that she has forgotten how it feels. But Nutzi is overcome by jealousy and Galina’s opportunity for one evening of pleasure is at risk. Miri Aloni makes a return to acting in this role, following a serious health crisis and surgery.
Maurice’s Bar is an animated short by Tom Prezman and Tzor Edery. Synopsis: In 1942, on a train to nowhere, a former drag queen remembers a night from her past in one of Paris’ first queer bars. Remnants of customer gossip recall this mythic bar and its mysterious Jewish-Algerian owner. The film is a co-production with Sacrebleu Productions. The film is based on true events in the life of Moïse Zekri, an Algerian-Jewish immigrant who lived in France in the early 20th century.
Guests of honor at the festival will include:
In recognition of his contribution to American film, Hollywood producer Lawrence Kasanoff will serve as the President of the 25th TISFF. Co-founder with James Cameron of Lightstorm Entertainment, Kasanoff is known for producing films such as Blue Steel (1989), True Lies (1994), and Strange Days (1995). He has since founded Threshold Entertainment and produced the Mortal Kombat film series.
Film director Christian Petzold (Germany), of critical and popular acclaim, whose most recent film, Afire (Roter Himmel), was awarded the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the 2023 Berlinale. Petzold, who is associated with the Berlin School, is known for films such as The State I Am In (2000); Barbara, for which Petzold received the Silver Bear for Best Director at the 2012 Berlinale; Phoenix (2014); and Transit (2018).
Film director Jessica Hausner (Austria), who began her career with the short film Flora (1996), which won the Leopard of Tomorrow at the Locarno Festival, and Inter-view, her graduation film, which won the Prix du Jury of the Cinéfondation at the Cannes Film Festival in 1999. Many of her films have participated in the official competition at Cannes, including her latest, Club Zero (2023). Among her films are: Lovely Rita (2001); Hotel (2004) and Lourdes, which won the FIPRESCI Prize at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
Film director Agnieszka Smoczynska (Poland) became known for her first film The Lure (2015), a musical about two mermaids, that merges Poland of the 1980s with folktales and legends. Her third film, The Silent Twins (2022) which participated in Un Certain Regard at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, is based on the lives of twin sisters, June and Jennifer Gibbons who only communicated with one another, and wrote fiction.
Cinematographer Diego Garcia (Mexico) has worked with many leading directors in several film genres. His filmography includes: Cemetery of Splendor (2015), directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul; Wildlife (2018), directed by Paul Dano; Victory Day (2018), directed by Sergei Loznitsa; Too Old to Die Young (2019), directed by Nicolas Winding Refn; Nimic (2019), directed by Yorgos Lanthimos; Tokyo Vice (2022), directed by Michael Mann; and the most recent – Causeway (2022), directed by Lila Neugebauer.
Special Events at the Festival
One of the festival’s special events will be the premiere screening of Amit Ulman’s film The City, a full-length feature film adapted from the live show – a Hebrew language hip hop noir cult hit. Riffing on the tropes of noir and detective novels, The City delivers its narrative through the rhymes and rhythms of hip hop. Live music is an integral part of the show. Joe is a world-weary detective, à la Sam Spade, Mike Hammer, and countless other hard-boiled icons. Joe’s character has that tough guy appeal as hat slung low over his eyes, feet on his desk, and cynicism in his heart, the stage is set for trouble. Cue the femme fatale trope, and Sarah Bennett walks in out of the rain: “I knew right from the start this one was no good.” I saw the show in its English translation several years ago, and found it exhilarating fun, wickedly clever, and tremendously entertaining! The screening will be followed by a performance of songs that didn’t make it into the film’s final edit, and a conversation with Ulman and his creative collaborators on creating and surviving as independent artists in Israel.
In the spirit of the times the festival will hold a panel on Cinema and Activism, with screenings of select films. The event will focus on filmmakers who employ film as a mode of resistance, with screenings of documentary and fiction films, as well as reels from Instagram and other new media. Among these will be the Instagram creation of Alex Farfuri on the 2023 protests, and films made by the activists Yuval Avraham and Rachel Shor that document the West Bank. The films selected reflect not only direct engagement with a particular situation, but also with the act of creating film as a way of contending with war or the realities of immigration. Following the screenings there will be a panel discussion with the filmmakers on cinema and activism.
Global/Local – the festival will host an event in English, with the participation of international film industry members. Intended for experienced members of the film industry as well as students, the event will focus on questions such as: What makes a film an international success? How do you bridge cultural differences in the screenplay? What will make a film stand out internationally? The film and television industry have changed drastically in recent years and the arena is now international. Many filmmakers seek out international co-productions and international audiences while creating films that are Israeli in their essence. While others create films with a more international focus, addressing global themes and issues. Participating in the event will be: Osnat Saraga, of Ananey Studios; Dominique Welinski, founder of DW production and consulting company and initiator of The Factory at the Cannes Film Festival; screenplay writer Noah Stollman (Fauda, The Human Resources Manager); and screenplay writer Michal Aviram (Fauda, Munich Games). The event will be hosted by Yariv Mozer (The Devil’s Confession: The Lost Eichmann Tapes) and will cover different perspectives on local and international filmmaking, fund raising and distribution, as well as the personal experiences of the participating filmmakers.
The festival will hold five competitions: the Israeli Competition, the International Competition, the Short Independent Film Competition, the Experimental Film & Video Competition, and the Digital Media Competition. Of 200 submissions, the films of 22 film students from 7 different film schools were selected to participate in the Israeli Film Competition. Of note are a record number of documentary films – 7 out of 22, and a record number of films by women – 15 out of 22. 35 films from 21 different countries have been selected to participate in the International Competition.
The full schedule and additional information will be available on the TISFF website.