It’s not to soon to report that the 28th Jerusalem Film Festival lives up to its reputation as one of Israel’s premier cultural events of the year. You still have time to catch some of the superb Israeli documentaries and features that will give you a glimpse into this complex and dynamic society, or to get a taste of some European, Scandinavian, Asian, and Bollywood feature films that rarely make it to the commercial screen.
Along with the films, the festival is an opportunity for Israelis and film-buff visitors to mingle with local and international directors, film critics, and actors. The beautiful gardens of the renovated Cinematheque complex at the edge of the Gehinom Valley just below the walls of the Old City are transformed during the festival into a serene outdoor salon.
In the late afternoon, the shady garden with its soft couches strewn with large colorful pillows and low tables creates a uniquely Jerusalem atmosphere that’s conducive to shmoozing over the films, Israeli reality, and the state of the world. The outdoor space is also used as a space for what Israelis call the “cocktail”– a post-screening reception where film-goers enjoy a glass of Israeli wine and some nibblies together with everyone involved in the film.
So far, the most outstanding films I’ve seen have been the Israeli documentaries — Lia, The Flat and My Sweet Canary all deserve to make the rounds of film festivals around the world. Lia is the poignant story of the life of Cinematheque co-founder Lia Van Leer. The Flat (my favorite) illustrates how much the Holocaust still permeates our lives today. My Sweet Canary is a beautiful musical retrospective of an intriguing Jewish songstress from Turkey and Greece.
Check out the box office and run to catch the last three days of the festival!