AICE Israeli Film Festival
Posted by GoreMaster Special Effects on August 19, 2009
The sixth annual Israeli Film Festival, presented by the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, is coming to Melbourne and Sydney from the 25th of August-September 6. FILMINK here gives you a taste of some of the amazing films that will feature from this country’s blossoming film industry.
Directed by: Ronit & Shlomi Elkabetz Starring: Hana Azoulay-Hasfari, Ronit Elkabetz, Moshe Ivgy
In their highly acclaimed co-directorial debut To Take a Wife, brother and sister team Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz examined the strained marriage between first generation Israelis from Morocco, Viviane (played by Ronit Elkabetz herself) and husband Eliyahu (Simon Abkarian). The couple is revisited in Shiva, the latest project by the Elkabetz siblings, which examines not only the tensions between Viviane and Eliahu but a whole family during the traditional seven days of mourning, following the death of Viviane’s older brother, Maurice. During this period, family members are not permitted to leave the house and the intensity of this situation is a catalyst for more than just communal grief and support as jealousies, rivalries and the myriad complexities of family life are exposed.
Viviane continues to plead with her passive-aggressive husband for a divorce. Viviane’s sister Simona sulks for most of the film before erupting in a devastating way toward the film’s end. Her brother Haim is facing bankruptcy and his wife Ita continually nags at him to demand that his brothers help him out but they each have problems of their own. Lili, a woman who was in love with the late Maurice can’t stand being in the house with his widow, etc, etc.
It is a credit to the directors that while the film is shot like a stage play with wide angles and crowded frames, the end product does not feel theatrical. With so many storylines and subplots, the film’s ambition often exceeds its execution. While the film feels authentic and is a fascinating family portrait, particularly being set in the midst of the Gulf War, Shiva’s lack of focus ultimately prevents it from being truly compelling.
7 Minutes in Heaven
Directed by: Omri Givon
Starring: Amsallem Raymond, Nadav Nates, Eldad Fribas
In his debut film, writer/director Omri Givon deals with the post traumatic effects of a terrorist attack, revealing how startlingly commonplace these attacks have become in Israel. Shortly before their wedding, Galia and her fiance Oren, are severely injured during a bus suicide bombing. Galia survives with extensive burns but Oren passes away in a coma, compelling Galia to reconstruct the events of that tragic day in order to try and gain some form of closure.
Givon’s intricate form of narrative requires patience on the part of audiences as they are not able to immediately piece the story together. Part romance and part thriller, 7 Minutes in Heaven is largely told through shifting timeframes, flashbacks and hallucinations which makes lead actress Raymonde Amsalem’s consistently impressive performance all the more important. She invests Galia with a deep regret and guilt that is hard to shake.
As Galia’s quest for catharsis continues, the film verges into the metaphysical and there is a significant twist toward the end. This surprising turn does not feel cheap and contrived but adds another layer to this absorbing story.
Directed by: Shmuel Beru
Starring: Meir Dasa, Avinu Beru, Ester Rada
Zrubavel is the first film made by an Ethiopian Israeli and the film’s story represents familiar territory for the director. At the age of eight, Shmuel Beru crossed the Sudanese desert to immigrate to Israel and in his directional debut, he tells the story of a family of immigrants learning to adapt to an unfamiliar setting. While Zrubavel centres on the lives of the Ethiopian Jewish community in Israel, the way in which this film deals with themes of immigration and assimilation resounds with universal appeal.
Gite Zrubavel, a proud and fiercely traditional man who works as a street cleaner in Tel Aviv, is determined that his children will do something more significant with their lives, but his hard-won efforts look to be undermined. His oldest son briefly flirts with petty crime while Gite holds hope for him to become a fighter pilot. His daughter opts for a taboo romance with a distant cousin rather than an arranged marriage. Even his grandson wants to break free of parental expectations and dreams of becoming the next Spike Lee, using a hand held camera to film the daily rhythms of his neighbourhood.
Unfortunately Zrubavel skims superficially over some important aspects. There is little interaction between the family and white Israelis and those who do feature – the police and the school principal – are cast as embarrassingly racist and one feels Beru has missed a chance to strive for something more deeply resonant. The film is most affecting in its portrayal of the cultural and generational divide between traditionally-minded parents and children attempting to assimilate, and within this larger struggle, Beru reveals the poignant process of a family learning to compromise.
The AICE Israeli Film Festival runs from August 25 – 30 at Palace Cinema Como and Brighton Bay, Melbourne and September 1 – 6 at the Academy Twin, Sydney.
For more information on the festival, visit here.