Eight Israeli feature films will compete for the Wolgin Award for Israeli Cinema at the 27th Jerusalem International Film Festival 2010. The winning film traditionally represents Israel at the Academy Awards. Festival Program Director Avinoam Harpak and Gilli Mendel, Manager of the Jerusalem Cinematheque Education Department, are among this year’s lectors. While the committee may yet decide to include additional films, the current line-up is full of promise:
Andante, Director: Assaf Tager
Singer-songwriter Assaf Tager’s first film describes an alienated, industrialized society in which people have lost the ability to dream. Mr. Trier’s factory sells dreams to the frightened masses. Sara, the last remaining dreamer, arrives at the factory, searching for an explanation for the strange visions she experiences. In the factory, the old man who has been supplying dreams is fading fast and a replacement is desperately sought. Didi, Sara’s lover, works as a dream editor for Mr. Trier. He knows that Sara is in danger, and he must save her. A surreal journey on the borderline between reality and fantasy.
Gey Oni, Director: Dan Wolman
Dan Wolman, whose film “My Michael” (1975) was based on the novel of the same name by Amos Oz, returns to literature for inspiration with Gey Oni. Valley of Strength (English translation, Tobey Press, 2009), Shulamit Lapid’s landmark novel, explores a topic rarely discussed in Israeli literature – the experiences of the women of the Jewish European migration to Palestine. 17 year old Fania, a young Russian immigrant arrives in Jaffa with her baby daughter, her retarded brother and elderly uncle Shura – survivors of a pogrom in which all the other members of their family were killed. With only harrowing memories and a terrible secret, Fania must find a way to survive and protect her small family. Yechiel, a widower with two children who is attracted to Fania, offers the home she needs. Although her situation is conventional in many ways, the portrayal of Fania’s inner thoughts and feelings, and the development of her character as she confronts the hardships of her new home near Safed, imbue the story with a feminist perspective. It is interesting to note that as he turns to literature, Wolman has once more, as in “My Michael”, chosen to focus on a strong, female character, trapped by circumstance and convention.
Intimate Grammar, Director: Nir Bergman
Nir Bergman, creator of the successful television series “In Treatment,” wrote the screenplay for Renen Schorr’s “The Loners,” which premiered in the Jerusalem International Film Festival 2009. Bergman’s screenplay for “Broken Wings” (2003), which he also directed, won the Ophir Prize in 2002. The current film is based on David Grossman’s novel, “The Book of Intimate Grammar,” and has been several years in the making. Eleven year old Aaron Kleinfeld lives with his parents in a dismal housing project in the middle of nowhere. He has not grown a single inch in three years. Is it a physical impairment or a symbolic refusal to join the adult world as represented by his vulgar parents who view sex as something ugly. Perhaps, afraid to turn into a loveless machine like his parents, Aaron refuses to mature. Perhaps he just a late bloomer, who needs more time. Orly Zilbershatz, who portrayed the mother at the center of the family in “Broken Wings,” returns in this film to portray a very different sort of maternal figure.
Revolution 101, Director: Doron Tsabari
Doron Tsabari’s film combines documentary and fictional material to tell the story of a film director’s struggle to restore Israeli public broadcasting to its rightful owner – the public. The film accompanies Doron Tsabari and Ori Inbar, its protagonists, during their seven years of tenacious struggle against corruption, deterioration, and inflexibility, until a new law is legislated that will guarantee well-managed public broadcasting. Doron and Ori, together with their supporters, embark on a journey into the world of Israeli politics and discover how decisions are made in the public administration, the government, and the Knesset.
The Wanderer, Director: Avishai Sivan
Isaac, a young yeshiva student, is an only child to born-again orthodox parents. Trapped in a dysfunctional family and a failing body, Isaac finds refuge in wandering. Tormented by his newfound infertility, Isaac looks for answers in his father’s dubious past. Wandering through the backstreets of the city, he seeks deliverance.
Infiltration, Director: Dover Kosashvili
The third in the literary trio of films based on novels, Infiltration is based on the novel by Yehoshua Kenaz, published in 1986. The story takes place in the early 1950s, a few years after the War of Independence and the establishment of the State of Israel. Immigration is at its peak, transit camps are scattered throughout the country, security is unstable. This is the story of one platoon at Training Base 4, a three-month boot camp for non-combatants. The platoon consists of soldiers from cooperative settlements, kibbutzim, towns, Ashkenazim, new immigrants from North Africa and Europe, holocaust survivors, secular and religious men. All the platoon members suffer from afflictions, are physically unfit, or mentally disabled. They find themselves on the extreme margins of society. The film deals with people at the bottom of the social ladder who dream of ascending to the top. Common precepts such as “melting pot,” “team spirit,” and “one for all and all for one,” remain unfulfilled. This is a battle for the individual’s survival, a war for status, identity, and independence. A battle to attain the loftiest dreams, a war waged by individuals against their destiny. Filmmaker Kosashvili won international acclaim for his film “Late Marriage” (2001) which was screed in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival.
And On the Third Day, Director: Moshe Ivgy
Acclaimed actor Moshe Ivgy, who recently starred opposite his daughter Dana Ivgy in “There Were Nights,” (2009) has created his first film. And on the Third Day portrays a future Israel as a country far beyond identity crises, where violence is rampant, social and political anarchy rules, and where perverse sexual satisfactions are the common norm. The chaos represented in this film shows a reality ruled by verbal, spiritual, and physical violence as well as political and institutional corruption, sexual harassment, and rape. Within the chaos of this pathological urban reality, five different characters pave their scattered life, searching for meaning, fighting the violence and injustices they encounter, and desperately yearning for intimacy even if only for a fraction of a moment.
Sea Salt, Director: Itay Lev
Danni is an Israeli actress who just made a controversial film entitled The Death of Sunrise. Opening night was set to take place in a hotel by the Dead Sea. She invites her best friend, Tamara, over for the weekend. It’s Danni’s birthday as well. Lior is Danni’s boyfriend. He is a frustrated director doing commercials. He is not at all happy with Tamara’s visit. Tamara has been living in Berlin for the past two years. One day, she just packed her bags and disappeared. She didn’t keep in touch with Danni and Lior. At the time, Tamara was Lior’s girlfriend and while she was away Danni and Lior became a couple. Danni thinks she’s pregnant. She thinks it’s a good opportunity to meet and solve matters. Tamara accepts the invitation and changes everyone’s plans.