Tuesday, July 19, 2011

And the Winners Are...

The results of the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival are in, and as is normal with any award ceremony, I feel mixed with my reactions to the winners (mostly because I did not have the chance to see all the films). How can you see 150-200 films in one week, anyways? A tip for next year: buy your tickets early. I approached the theater on the first day of the Film Festival and bought a discounted pack for "buy 3, get 3 free", which I felt was a great deal (and a whole lot of movie watching for one week). This really is a great deal....especially if your chosen films still have availability. I was shocked how quickly the tickets sold out. I ended up going to a few that I really wanted to see and a couple that I hadn't intended to see but were nice surprises anyhow.

Jerusalem Cinemateque
I must say, though, that after going to my 1st Film Festival, I'm shocked I've never been to one before (especially given my love for the film industry). It's amazing to be in an environment surrounded by movie insiders, producers, directors and sometimes even the actors themselves. Before every film, the director came forward before the packed theater to introduce his or her film to an eager audience.  Simultaneously, there were between 5-10 films showing at any given time. After the viewing, there were usually follow-up sessions with not only the director, but sometimes with the stars of the film as well (quite exciting when an emotional documentary is involved). Additionally, wine and cheese (and other goodies) were hosted in a beautiful outdoor deck after the film. Quite a nice movie going experience:

 

   

    


    

 

It was nice just to take a little break inbetween film viewings out on the above deck where there was music playing, a bar open for service, people chatting and discussing the films and a gorgeous backdrop of the Old City behind us.  But with the ambiance aside, it's time to get down to business. Here's the condensed review of the winners from the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival (to see the rest of the results go here).


Best Full-Length Feature Film: RESTORATION
Read synopsis here
This film is about an attempt to repair and restore a family's failing business which is largely a metaphor for an attempt to repair the family's fraying relationships. This film has received a lot of international attention and won big at multiple film festivals thus far in 2011.

Audience Choice Award: MY AUSTRALIA
Read synopsis here
This film is about two young boys who are raised Catholic by their mother in Poland. They join a rough neo-Nazi gang which leads to their mother revealing her true identity that she is Jewish and has survived the Holocaust. Ultimately, the mother decides to move the family to Israel, but tells the boys they are moving to Australia.


Best Director of a Full-Length Feature: THE SLUT
See synopsis here
This film weaves a story about a woman with several twisted sexual relationships and her struggle for fidelity to one man. It is a vulgar film that may be graphic and difficult to sit through, but one that is worthwhile to see for its cinematic achievements.


Best Screenplay in a Full-Length Feature: THE POLICEMAN
See synopsis here
This film tells the story of a policeman in the Israeli Anti-Terrorism department who must deal with a grave confrontation with a radical, violent group.


Best Actress: LIPSTIKKA (Nataly Attiya & Moran Rosenblatt)
See synopsis here
This film tells the story of two Palestinian women who were childhood friends, and perhaps more, whose lives cross again as adults in London. The film focuses on the differing perspectives and memories of a singular traumatic experience they shared as young girls and the course it takes on their lives. I would recommend seeing this film as I was very much drawn into the plot and the characters, leaving room for discussion at the film's end.


Best Actor: OFF-WHITE LIES (Gur Bentwich)
See synopsis here
This film focuses on a unique father-daughter relationship that unfolds in Israel during the 2nd Lebanon War. Issues of identity and sense-of-self emerge during the film's plot.

Best Documentary Film: THE LAW IN THESE PARTS
See synopsis here
This interesting film explores the unique legal system in Israel that has ruled over the occupied Palestinian territories for the past four decades. This documentary's touchy subject won big at the film festival over several viable documentary contenders.


Best Director of a Documentary Film: THE FLAT
See synopsis here
Taking place in Tel Aviv, the complex lives of the main character's grandparents are uncovered after their death, as the upstairs attic is cleaned out and emptied. Family secrets are unfolded, secret alliances uncovered and discoveries are made which change the course of a family's history.

Honorable Mentions for Documentary: DOLPHIN BOY and
AMEER GOT HIS GUN
See synopsis for Dolphin Boy here




In Dolphin Boy (see film's website here), Morad survives a traumatic beating from neighboring students in the north of Israel; and although he heals physically, he is unable to speak or engage for weeks. Instead of sending him to a pyschiatric institution, his doctor urges him to go to Eilat where he will explore dolphin therapy. It is a moving tale that leaves the viewer transformed as Morad makes his journey to recovery.

See synopsis for Ameer Got His Gun here
This film explores the interesting topic of Muslim Arab soldiers who choose to volunteer in the Israeli army. Muslim Arabs are exempt from military service in Israel under the assumption that their participation will endanger Israeli security. Regardless, every year, there are about 20 Muslim Arabs who choose to volunteer. One of those soldiers is Ameer, who we had the pleasure of finding in our audience, applauding to, and meeting at the film's end. He is an honorable and exemplary soldier who has been shunned by his community and simultaneously embraced by Israelis.


Best Short Film: BARRIERS and BARBIE BLUES
See synopsis for Barriers here
 A young Israeli officer is manning a checkpoint when he is faced with two young screaming women at the same time as a bomb threat is ensuing. An unexpected outcome surprises viewers.

See synopsis for Barbie Blues here
A young, suburban teenager finds a strange creature in her pool and asks a neighbor for help. The two of them end up playing together, turning the backyard into a playground.

The Spirit of Freedom Award: THE PRIZE
See synopsis here
A Jewish family (mother and daughter) arrive in Argentina in the 1970's at the height of the "dirty war". The mother instructs her daughter to conceal their identities, telling peers that her mother is a housewife and that her father is a skilled laborer. Problems are created for the family when the daughter writes an essay at school; and the situation only gets worse when a rewritten, patriotic form of the essay goes on to win a national prize.


Best Jewish Documentary: A BITTER TASTE OF FREEDOM
See synopsis here
A Russian investigative journalist and human rights advocate, Anna Politkovskaya, is assassinated at the height of her career. She is known for having followed the human rights violations perpetrated by the Russian army during its war against Chechnya. She is murdered during her investigation into the torture carried out by the Russian army during the Chechnyan rebellion. Though many films have been made about her death, this is arguably the most personal.

The Jewish Experience Award: SHOLEM ALEICHEM LAUGHING IN THE DARKNESS
See synopsis here
Sholem Aleichem is the pen name for Solomon Naumovich Rabinowitz who is considered to have been the "Jewish Mark Twain". Having grown up in a Hassidic family amid a Ukranian shtetl, this man's life and stories became the basis for the wildly popular Broadway musical, "Fiddler on the Roof".

Preservation of Audio-Visual Memory Award (and Erin's Choice): NICKY'S FAMILY
See synopsis here
Nicky's Family tells the true story of the 29-year-old Nicholas Winton in the years 1938-1939 when he assisted in the rescue of nearly 700 young Czechoslovakian children prior to the onset of WW2 in a  huge operation called "Czech Kindertransport". Today, the lives he saved represent nearly 6,000 people. The film was one of the most moving documents I've ever witnessed and we had the utter honor to meet and speak to a handful of the actual Kindertransport survivors who were in the room viewing the film for the first time. There was not a dry eye in the house. Nicky's Family has won big at recent 2011 film festivals throughout Europe.


As you can see, I've selected "Nicky's Family" as my film of choice from the Jerusalem Film Festival. I would go so far as to call the film life-changing. If at all possible, I highly recommend you view this film if you have the opportunity to do so. Here's a clip (see above) of some original footage from when Sir Nicholas Winton was duped into going to a TV taping for what he thought was just a discussion of his heroic acts. See the footage for yourself and I dare you to try to not shed a tear.

   



To view the rest of the 2011 awards and prizes for this year's Jerusalem Film Festival, please see the website here.  Look out for some of these films as they make their way to the US. Likewise, if you have any good ones for me to see, don't be shy to recommend them. Seeing these awards, I'm tempted to get busy with some more movie watching, as I can never seem to get enough. I think it's such a great format to get to the heart of important and touchy subjects that are crucial to discuss and be aware of in today's world.

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