Best of Israeli films

Former right-wing politician Csanad Szegedi in a synagogue with Rabbi Boruch Oberlander in Keep Quiet.

THE 2016 AICE Israeli Film Festival, which opens in Melbourne on September 14 and Sydney on September 15, features a range of contemporary movies and documentaries from leading Israeli filmmakers.

The line-up includes romantic comedies, a Holocaust mystery, a Bedouin family drama, a Polish-Israeli horror film and several new independent movies.

The opening night film is Firebirds starring Gila Almagor and a host of leading Israeli actors including Oded Teomi, Devora Keidar and Miriam Zohar.

The mystery drama by first-time director Amir Wolf, which earned an Israeli Academy Award for actress Dvora Kedar, is set around Amnon, a police detective who tries to solve a murder of an 80-year-old man found with a number tattooed along his forearm.

Festival director Richard Moore says that Firebirds is an uplifting dark comedy-mystery.

“We wanted a film with a great cast for opening night,” says Moore, who is at the helm of his second AICE Israeli Film Festival. “There is a great selection of films on the program ranging from comedy to drama and fascinating documentaries.”

Moore travelled to Israel in May to attend the 10-day Docaviv Documentary Film Festival in Tel Aviv and selected several films for screening in Australia.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to meet Israeli filmmakers,” he says. “Israel’s energetic documentary film industry is the envy of many -countries.”

Among the highlights at the AICE Israeli Film Festival is the hard-hitting Town on A Wire, based on a top-rating reality TV series and the popular Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? which was an audience award-winner at this year’s Berlin Film Festival.

Town on A Wire is a documentary about life in the town of Lod, which is popular with religious Jewish settlers and Palestinian drug lords. Many of Lod’s 75,000 Jewish, Muslim and Christian inhabitants suffer poverty, racism, bigotry and violence.

Israeli filmmakers Barak Heymann and Tomer Heymann’s documentary Who’s Gonna Love Me Now? is set around Saar, a man who was barred from his kibbutz and moved to London to live because he is gay.

The film uses sensitivity and humour to show how the 40-year-old man and his estranged family confront their disagreements and fears.
Director Mor Kaplinsky embarks on a journey to discover the story behind the legendary Cafe Nagler, owned by her family during the 1920s in Berlin, in the one-hour documentary, Cafe Nagler.

However, when Kaplinsky discovers that the true story behind the cafe isn’t as glamorous as her grandmother had always believed, she decides to re-create the myth of the cafe.

The documentary Keep Quiet tells the amazing story of how an -anti-Semitic Hungarian far-right politician, Csanad Szegedi, discovers at the peak of his political career that he is Jewish and that his family has kept secret for decades that his maternal grandparents were Jewish.

After the initial shock, Szegedi enlists the help of a friendly rabbi to start a new life.

The feature film Everything is Broken Up and Dances is a -contemporary war drama set in Tel Aviv’s music scene.
Nony is a former Israeli soldier, haunted by being the sole survivor of a Hamas rocket attack, who undertakes psychiatric treatment that leads him to become a singer with a bizarre stage presence.

For the first time in the AICE Film Festival’s 13-year history, a $25,000 prize will be awarded for the best film or documentary screened at the festival as an Australian premiere.

Festival chairman Albert Dadon said: “We are strengthening our commitment to the Israeli film industry with the announcement of one of the wealthiest prizes on the Australian film calendar.”

The prize will be announced at the end of the festival for the film which best encapsulates the spirit of Israel as a vibrant and active democracy and as a diverse nation.

The judging panel comprises American producer Howard Rosenman, Melbourne film critic Jan Epstein, B’nai B’rith Anti-Defamation Commission chairman Dr Dvir Abramovich and festival director Richard Moore.

The 2016 AICE Israeli Film Festival is in Melbourne at Cinema Nova, Carlton from  September 14-25 (Bookings: www.cinemanova.com.au)  and in Sydney at Ritz Cinema, Randwick from September 15-25 (Bookings: www.ritzcinema.com.au).

REPORT by Danny Gocs