Preview Story by Brad Balfour
With various celebrations underway for the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel, The Film Society of Lincoln Center will mark the occasion with a film series, "Israel @ 60," running from May 28 to June 5th, 2008, at the Walter Reade Theater.
Drawing on 15 films from the past decade of Israeli cinema, the program showcases some of Israel’s finest and most adventurous contemporary directors—including veteran Amos Gitai ("Disengagement), Oscar-nominee Joseph Cedar ("Campfire"), Giddi Dar ("Uzipishin"), controversial filmmakers Radu Mihaileanu ("Live and Become") and Keren Yedaya ("Or"), among others—and two of them—Gitai and David Ovek ("No. 17") will make appearances in New York as well.
Organized in collaboration with the Jewish Museum and Manhattan's Jewish Community Center (with a nod of thanks to the Consulate General of Israel, especially staffers Yoram Morad and Shani Hashaviah), "Israel @ 60" offers a unique overview of films emerging from and inspired by the Israeli experience—what Film Society Program Director Richard Peña calls, “the most remarkable decade yet for Israeli cinema.”
As programmed by Peña, the series is both a powerful reflection on the country’s history and a first-hand account of its ongoing conflicts. Said Peña, “Israeli films have confronted the complex and often painful issues that have shaped the nation’s first 60 years with sobering and, for some, upsetting candor.”
The series opens on the afternoon of Wednesday, May 28, with two looks at the country’s often explosive mix of cultures including the Sephardim and former Soviet Union immigrants: Dina Zvi-Riklis’s "Three Mothers" (at 2:00 p.m.) and Dover Koshashvili’s much-acclaimed "Late Marriage" (at 4:15 p.m.).
The most frequently examined subject—the relationship between Israel and Palestine—is highlighted in "Israel @ 60" through three films, "Avenge But One of My Two Eyes," "Checkpoint," and "The Inner Tour." These features address both the tumultuous history of the region and the current difficulties impeding reconciliation and resolution of the conflict.
Among the selections, Gitai’s latest film, 2007's "Disengagement," addresses the theme of national identity through the dramatic performance by lead actress Juliette Binoche, who plays a woman living in France brought together with her Israeli police officer brother and long-abandoned daughter after her father’s death.
Forecasting his Oscar-nominated success with last year's "Beaufort," director Cedar made his mark with 2004’s "Campfire." The film examines the life of a widow and her family within the controversial political atmosphere of Israel in the '80s, and now enjoys renewed attention by being part of this program.
The series also re-screens several much acclaimed Israeli films such as Dar’s surprise smash hit "Ushpizin," about an orthodox Jewish couple who grapples with a startling test of faith that confronts them during the Sukkot holiday. Winner of the Camera d'Or for best first feature at the 2004 Cannes Film Festival, Yedaya's "Or" is a riveting study of aging Tel Aviv prostitute Ruthie (Ronit Elkabetz) and her 18-year-old daughter Or (Dana Ivgy, who won the Israeli Oscar for Best Actress for her performance).
Filmmakers Anat Zuria and David Benchetrit capture other Israeli perspectives through non-fiction filmmaking. In "Purity: Breaking the Codes of Silence" Zuria offers a sensitive documentary examination of the laws and rituals that govern orthodox Jewish women’s lives. Benchetrit’s "Kaddim Wind: Moroccan Chronicles"—winner of the best documentary award at the 2002 Jerusalem Film Festival—provides a meticulous look at the obstacles immigrants to Israel face when coming from Muslim countries.
Among the other doc selections, two have had New York premieres at 2004 New Directors/New Films—"Checkpoint" and "No. 17." Filmed at various checkpoints from 2001 to 2003, Yoav Shamir's "Checkpoint" provides a powerful testament to the impasses that have been created for the Palestinians and is a chilling look at the destructive impact of the enforced boundaries on both societies.
Ofek's "No. 17" takes a look at the aftermath of one suicide bombing. After an attack outside Tel Aviv leaves 17 people dead, 16 victims are claimed and identified, yet weeks after the incident no one has come forward with information on the 17th body, a man mutilated beyond recognition. Ofek sets out to discover who he was and how he is identified and as a result creates a revealing, unsettling portrait of a society accustomed to living in the shadow of death.
Also included in the program is Mihaileanu's "Live and Become," the enormously popular Opening Night film of the 2006 New York Jewish Film Festival. This fiction feature opens in a Sudanese refugee camp in 1984, when an Ethiopian Christian mother urges her son to assume a Jewish identity in order to escape war and famine. As part of the Operation Moses airlift, Israeli adoptee Solomon/Shlomo begins a long and at times difficult process of find his place within Israeli society.
A series pass is available for Israel @ 60 which will admits one person to a total of five titles in the two series, May 16–27. They are $40; $30 for Film Society members, and available only at the Walter Reade Theater box office (cash only).
Single screening tickets for the series are $11; $7 for Film Society members, students and children (6-12, accompanied by an adult); and $8 for seniors (62+). They are available at both the Walter Reade Theater box office and online at www.filmlinc.com. A complete schedule and filmd escription can be found on the site as well.
Israel @ 60 Schedule at a Glance
Wednesday, May 28
2:00 pm Three Mothers, 106m
4:15 pm Late Marriage, 100m
Thursday, May 29
1:30 pm Live and Become, 140m
4:15 pm Campfire, 96m
6:20 pm Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, 104m
8:30 pm Three Mothers
Friday, May 30
2:00 pm Close to Home, 98m
4:10 pm Thirst, 110m
6:30 pm Disengagement, 116m
9:15 pm The Inner Tour, 94m
Saturday, May 31
2:00 pm Thirst
4:20 pm Live and Become
7:20 pm Campfire
9:20 pm Late Marriage
Sunday, June 1
12:00 pm The Inner Tour
2:00 pm Purity: Breaking the Codes of Silence, 65m
3:40 pm Close to Home
5:40 pm Ushpizin, 90m
7:30 pm Checkpoint, 80m
9:15 pm Disengagement
Monday, June 2
2:00 pm Avenge But One of My Two Eyes
4:15 pm Or (My Treasure), 100m
6:30 pm Kaddim Wind: Moroccan Chronicles, 255m
Wednesday, June 4
1:00 pm Ushpizin
2:50 pm Purity: Breaking the Codes of Silence
4:30 pm Or (My Treasure)
6:30 pm Live and Become
9:30 pm No. 17, 75m
Thursday, June 5
2:00 pm No. 17
3:45 pm Checkpoint