New Israeli cinema
Israel showcases its finest new movies in the city this week.
Published: November 30, 2011 (Issue # 1685)
Director Avi Nesher will attend the showing of his film ‘The Matchmaker’ (above) on Dec. 3 at 9 p.m.
Modern Israeli cinematgraphy is making a strong impression on the international market — Israeli documentaries have already become a well-known brand, and feature films are catching up, claim the organizers of the Israeli Film Festival that takes place in the city from Dec. 1 through 5.
“During the last 20 years, Israeli cinematography has made an important breakthrough,” said the organizers.
“Before, Israeli filmmaking was largely devoted to violent political and social conflicts, and this cinema was interesting mostly for the internal audience,” said Sasha Akhmadshina, PR-director of the Tour de Film international festival agency.
“Contemporary Israeli cinematography is more personal, a person with their own problems has become the subject of the films, and this has made new Israeli films more captivating for international audiences,” she said.
The festival’s aim in St. Petersburg is to introduce Russians to new trends in Israeli cinema and demonstrate its genre diversity.
“We tried to choose very different Israeli films,” said Akhmadshina. “The program includes a sensual romantic comedy ‘Salsa Tel Aviv,’ a sarcastic comedy ‘This is Sodom!’ a documentary about a Warsaw ghetto and more serious and dramatic films by Joseph Cedar and Joseph Madmony.”
‘Salsa Tel Aviv,’ a sensual romantic comedy, will play at 7 p.m. on Dec. 5.
The Israeli Film Festival program consists of eight feature films and one documentary, all made in 2010 and 2011. Most of the films have already received good reviews from cinema experts at international festivals in Cannes, Berlin, Venice and Locarno.
The film “Footnote” by Joseph Cedar will open the festival. The story focuses on the rivalry between two professors: A father and son both doing research into Talmudic Studies. When the son learns that his father will receive an award for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak. The film won the prize for best screenplay at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and it received a 2012 Oscar nomination for the best foreign-language film.
Describing Israeli cinema in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Joseph Cedar said: “When you see a Chinese film, you often feel it is rooted in some kind of ancient Chinese tradition… The Talmud is our primary text, our tradition. It’s something I want to deal with if I am making movies in Israel.”
Israeli director Avi Nesher, who returned to Israel after a successful Hollywood career, and actor Henry David, considered to be a sex symbol of new Israeli cinema, will attend the festival in St. Petersburg.
“There are several reasons for the success of new Israeli cinema,” said the festival’s organizers. “These are the freedom in the choice of topic by film directors, important financial aid from the state, and the creation and use of innovative new methods of education in film schools. Because of this, the Sam Spiegel Film and Television school in Jerusalem has become one of the most prestigious in the world.”
The festival program includes two films directed by Sam Spiegel school graduates — Yael Hersonski and Joseph Madmony.
Actor Henry David will attend the screening of ‘Restoration’ on Dec. 2.
The term “new Israeli cinema” is being used more and more often by world cinema critics, according to the festival’s organizers.
“Israeli cinema is an excellent example of how cinematography must develop,” said Akhmadshina. “The state supports film production and at the same time gives the director absolute creative freedom, which encourages those who work in the Israeli film industry to return to Israel from Europe and Hollywood. As a result, there has been a huge cinema boom in Israel,” she added.
The festival is being held to mark the 20th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between Russia and Israel as well as the opening of the General Consulate of Israel in St. Petersburg. The new Israeli Consulate is among the festival’s sponsors.
The films will be shown in their original language with Russian subtitles.