Jewish themes at Cannes

cannes

WHILE the Cannes Film Festival is famous for its glamorous red carpet premieres and champagne parties, for Jewish International Film Festival (JIFF) director Eddie Tamir the focus was on finding Israeli and Jewish-themed films that could premiere at this year’s festival in Melbourne and Sydney in November.

Tamir was among a large Australian contingent of filmmakers and distributors at Cannes, the iconic resort town on the Cote d’Azur in the south of France, where he spent a couple of weeks attending early morning and late-night screenings.

“It’s a very hotly contested market in Cannes as we are competing with commercial distributors and other festivals for films,” says Tamir after his 17th trip to Cannes.

“This year was a watershed year in terms of the large number of Israeli films that were screened in major sidebar competitions at the festival. It’s pleasing to see that the Israeli contingent gets bigger every year.”

Tamir noted that there were many Jewish-themed films being screened that were not made in Israel.

“I’m confident that this year’s JIFF and Holocaust Film Series will be even better than in 2013.”

One of the best films that Tamir previewed in Cannes was Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, a divorce drama by Israeli sister-brother co-directors Ronit Elkabetz (who also co-stars) and Shlomi Elkabetz.

Set within the courtroom and waiting rooms of a rabbinical court, the story unfolds over five years as Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) and her lawyer Carmel (Menashe Noy) try every possible legal manoeuvre to persuade the court to compel Viviane’s stubborn husband Elisha (Simon Abkarian) to grant her a gett.

“Gett has been made with great panache and has received excellent reviews,” says Tamir, who saw the film during the Directors’ Fortnight and met producer Sandrine Brauer.

Another film that created excitement in Cannes was The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films, a documentary about two Israelis, Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, who took Hollywood by storm, producing more than 300 films and turning Cannon Films into a major independent film company.

The film examines the relationship between the cousins as they created the action-adventure genre that became a Hollywood staple.

“The Go-Go Boys traces their pathway from the Israeli film industry to Hollywood with typical Israeli energy and chutzpah,” says Tamir.

Israeli filmmaker Talya Lavie’s debut feature Zero Motivation won a prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York for best narrative feature. The comedy-drama follows a unit of young female Israeli soldiers who work in the human resources office of a remote desert base.

Amidst their boredom and clashing personalities, issues of commitment to friendship, love and the nation are handled with humour and sharp-edged wit.

Among the more controversial films that Tamir saw at Cannes were director Keren Yedaya’s That Lovely Girl dealing with a father-daughter abusive relationship and Israeli director Asaf Korman’s Next to Her that examines the unhealthy relationship between two sisters.

Before attending the Cannes Film Festival, Tamir and his wife Lindy spent a week at the Docaviv International Documentary Film Festival in Tel Aviv.

REPORT by Danny Gocs

PHOTO of Jewish International Film Festival director Eddie Tamir (right) with Gett producer Sandrine Brauer in Cannes. Photo by Lindy Tamir