Jerusalem Film Festival Awards to Female Directors!

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The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival, held from July 10 to 20, presented its top awards to female filmmakers!

jerusalemfilmfestlogoFestival Overview

The more than 60,000 viewers who attended the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival enjoyed an outstanding program of local and international cinema, including narrative and nonfiction features and shorts.

The Festival, taking place from July 10 to 20, was one of the few Israeli cultural events held during that time frame that wasn’t cancelled due to concerns about security. With Israel under attack, and air raid sirens sounding frequently, festival organizers opened each screening and festival event with instructions to intrepid audiences about where to find the nearest bomb shelter. In several instances, alarms sent viewers to the secured areas, but for the most part, the program played as planned.

One unexpected addition to the program was a festival-sanctioned meeting of Israeli filmmakers to stimulate debate about the Israeli government’s use of force and protest the killing of innocent people in the ongoing conflict.

Among the 100 guests who attended this year’s Festival were David Mamet, Park Chan-wook and Martina Gedeck.

Over 200 films were screened, including numerous premieres of award-winning films hailing from the best of the international film festival circuit. The films were screened within the following categories:

  • In the Spirit of Freedom
  • The Jewish Experience
  • Festival Debuts
  • Gala
  • Panorama
  • JFF Kids

In addition, various Festival events included: workshops, the Jerusalem Pitchpoint, master classes, conversations with filmmakers, receptions for film industry guests from Israel and abroad, the Jerusalem International Film Lab.

For the first time, Screen International magazine covered the Festival with daily publications highlighting the Festival’s films and its Israeli premieres.

A Wide Range of Awards Indicate Festival Highlights

The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival Awards were granted this evening, July 19. In all, 24 awards were presented, including a tie for Best Feature and several special mentions. Cash prizes of about 275,000 NIS (about $80,000) were distributed to filmmakers.

Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Feature has been granted to two female-directed films:

Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, co-directed by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz

    Gett is a gripping courtroom drama that follows the plight of a Jewish woman who desperately wants a divorce from her estranged husband, who refuses to give her a divorce stars Ronit Elabetz as a woman who is trapped in a marriage from which she desperately wants a divorce. Modern societies take for granted that one loves freely and stops loving freely. Yet, as the remarkable movie by Shlomi & Ronit Elkabetz suggests, that freedom is denied to women in modern Israel by the rabbinical tribunals. If cinematographic tradition has made us used and even tired of seeing love as the sole and ultimate object of desire, Viviane Amsalem, the central character of this story desires the opposite of love: she passionately desires a Gett – or the religious Jewish act of divorcing which can only be granted by a man to a woman. In a very convincingly and beautifully crafted script, Viviane desires to stop being the object of a man’s desire. But this passionate desire for stopping to be the object of desire of a man who will not set her free, meets with the resistance of powerful and invisible social machinery made of the various men who control her life and that of the women who appear in front of the tribunal court.

    From the Jury: The movie represents a stunning twist on the genre of courtroom drama as it shows the subtle continuity between the court judges and the structure of the patriarchal family. As the emotionally intense and restrained performance of Menashe Noy suggests, this powerful social machinery is defeated not so much by the force of the better argument or by justice but by the relentless attack on a system determined to subdue the feelings and desires of women. With this film, Shlomi & Ronit Elkabetz conclude their superb trilogy on the Israeli-Moroccan community, never romanticizing them, never yielding to any facile political reductionism.

Princess, directed by Tali Shalom Ezer

    Adar, a bright and sensitive 12-year-old girl, must maneuver amid the tempestuous and fiery relationship between Alma, her workaholic mother and Michael, her young stay-at-home stepfather. While her mother is away from home, Adar is left in Michael’s care, who gradually turns their strong love and attachment into risky role-playing games. Roaming the city streets, Adar meets Alan – a dreamy boy who keenly resembles her, and brings him into the family. Alan’s presence seems to have a positive effect on their lives, until the relationship between Michael, Adar, and Alan takes a sinister turn. After failing to enlist her mother’s help, Adar finds she has no one to depend upon but Alan, and the two young friends embark on a dark journey between childhood and adolescence, reality and fantasy, which will forever change the rules of the game in the household.

    From the Jury: Princess is an outstanding, breathtaking film; its director Tali Shalom-Ezer is a strong unique new voice in World Cinema. When we saw her film, we were totally absorbed by its immense power and at the same time its transparency and sensitiveness. Slowly, the spectator is drawn into the structure of sexual child abuse and is held so close to the protagonist, young Adar (played by a fantastic Shira Haas), that she finds herself imprisoned just like her and feels the strong desperation of repression and of having no way out. By placing a boy by her side, the film shows Adar’s dissociation as a result of the abuse, where her mind invents a second self – or, as it is, also possible, reestablishing a first real adolescent love, Shalom-Ezer creates a different level of reality that intertwines with the girl’s real situation and helps her to survive and finally free herself. Shalom-Ezer sticks to the story in an intense and direct way, eliminating anything that could be superfluous, and thus unfolding the mechanism of repression in a disturbing yet almost accidental way, where we would like to escape or wish desperately to put an end to the suffering, but have to go along with Adar all the way. All other characters are strong and unpredictable, extraordinary in their acting, creating a believable dark family life which shines yet bright and phony. The aesthetics are beautiful, creating a painful air of seduction on the surface and on a deeper level showing the incredible pain and torture, her vulnerability by exploring the girls face in close up. The film is like a slow explosion and makes you say, after leaving the cinema – and that is, what we were looking for – “Come on, let’s change the world!” Congratulations, and may this prize encourage you to go on with sincere and profound filmmaking.

    Members of the Jury: Assaf Amir, Martina Gedeck, Georges Goldenstern, and Professor Eva Ilouz

The Van Leer Award for Best Israeli Documentary Film, in the sum of 35,000 NIS, was granted to The Decent One, directed by Vanessa Lapa.

    On May 6, 1945, US Army soldiers occupied the Himmler family residence in Gmund Germany where they discovered hundreds of private letters, documents, diaries, and photographs. The film makes use of these materials to sketch the biography and expose the inner mind, ideals, plans, and secrets of the Architect of the Final Solution, SS Commander in Chief, Heinrich Himmler. How did this Catholic nationalistic middle-class young man become Hitler’s henchman responsible for master minding, developing, and executing the strategies that led to the murder of millions of human beings? Where did his ideology originate? How was he perceived by his family? How could the man who often referred to German virtues such as order, decency, and goodness also write home in the midst of the war and Holocaust: “Despite of all the hard work I am doing fine and I sleep well”? How can a man become a hero in his own eyes but a mass murderer in the eyes of the world?

    From the Jury: With exhaustive and profound research, precise editing, and a multilayered soundtrack, the film weaves a complex and thought-provoking portrait, of surprising intimacy, which sheds a very troubling light on the Everyman hidden within a mass murderer.

    Members of the Jury: Arnon Goldfinger, Karen Cooper, Oeke Hoogendijk, Scott Foudas, Noemi Schory

The Van Leer Award for Best Director of a Documentary Film, in the sum of 20,000 NIS, is granted to Robby Elmaliah for his film The Unwelcoming:

    In 2006, Kmimish Uzan decides to immigrate from Djerba (an island off the coast of Tunisia), to Israel with his wife and five children. The Uzan family arrives at the most natural place, Moshav Beit HaGadi, populated primarily by immigrants from Djerba who arrived during the 1950s. Except that upon their arrival, the reality of the new country hits them between the eyes, as the inhabitants of the Moshav seek to drive them out of their home for being “primitive, and uncivilized.”

    From the Jury: With rich and confident cinematic language, sensitive and minute observation, the director leads us into the charged, dramatic and intense world of a family which copes with the trauma of emigration. He gives voice to characters who are rarely represented on the screen or heard in Israeli society.

Other Awards Also Show Strong for Women in Film

    The Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Actor, in the sum of 10,000 NIS is granted to Shira Haas for her role in the film Princess, directed by Tali Shalom Ezer

    The Haggiag Award for Best Israeli Actor, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Menashe Noy for his role in the film Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, directed by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz

    The Haggiag Award for Best Music, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Ishai Adar, for the soundtrack of the film Princess, directed by Tali Shalom Ezer

    The Anat Pirchi Award for Best First Film, in the sum of 20,000 NIS, is granted to Red Leaves, directed by Bazi Gete

      Meseganio Tadela, 74, is a hard, obstinate, and nervous man. He immigrated to Israel from Ethiopia 28 years ago with his family. He has chosen to zealously retain his culture, talks very little, and hardly speaks Hebrew. After losing his wife, he is afraid of dying and being alone. Meseganio sets out on a journey that leads him through his children’s homes. He comes to realize that he belongs to a rapidly disappearing class that believes in retaining Ethiopian culture. The harsh reality hits him in the face. Having come to know some of life’s new realities, he tries to survive according to his own ways.

    The Haggiag Award for Best Editing, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Nili Feller for her editing of the film Self Made, directed by Shira Geffen

    The Anat Pirchi Award for Best Script, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Shira Gefen for her film Self Made

      Michal is a renowned Jerusalem artist. One morning, her bed breaks, she falls, and consequently loses her memory. She orders a new bed and discovers that a screw is missing. She complains to the furniture factory, leading to the dismissal of Nadine, a young Palestinian woman, who works packing screws into plastic bags. This event signals a point of no return for both women until their fates cross again at a border checkpoint. A soldier’s mistake sends Michal to Nadine’s refugee camp and Nadine to Michal’s home in Jerusalem. The switch leads them to discover their innermost desires, the ones they could not access in their previous lives.

The Van Leer Awards

    The Van Leer Award for Best Animation Film, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Shouk, directed by Dotan Moreno

    The Van Leer Award for Best Documentary Short, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Mirror Image, directed by Danielle Schwartz

    The Van Leer Award for Best Independent Feature Film, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Vow, directed by Netalie Braun

    The Van Leer Award for Best Student Feature Film, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to April Fool’s, directed by Jonathan Dekel

In the Spirit of Freedom Awards in Memory of Wim van Leer

    The Ostrovsky Award for Best Documentary Film, in the sum of 6,800 NIS is granted to Watchers of the Sky, directed by Edet Belzberg

    The Cummings Award for Best Feature Film, in the sum of 13,500 NIS, is granted to Timbuktu, directed by Abderrahmane Sissako.

      Honorary Mention: Tangerines, directed by Zaza Urushadze

    The Lia Award, in Honor of Jerusalem Cinematheque Founder Lia van Leer for Films dealing with Jewish Heritage, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to 24 Days, directed by Alexandre Arcady

    The Avner Shalev-Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award for Artistic Achievement in Holocaust-Related Films, in the sum of 10,000 NIS, is granted to Radical Evil, directed by Stefan Ruzowitzky.

      The film turns the issue of mass murder during the Holocaust and the behavior of the murderers into a matter relevant to viewers today. Through a clever combination of archival footage, dramatic sequences, and interviews, the director reveals the inner makeup of “regular people” who became murderers.
      Honorary Mention: Night Will Fall, directed by André Singer

    The Ostrovsky Family Fund Award for Best Experimental Film, in the sum of 8,000 NIS, is granted to For the Record, directed by Ruti Sela

    The Mamuta Art and Media Center Award for Second Prize, is granted to The Right to Leave, directed by Sharon Paz.

    The Alex Bernstein Grant for Outstanding Student Final Project In the sum of 40,000 NIS, is granted to Elia Schwartz, of Minshar Art School, for her film Pandora.

FIPRESCI Debuts Competition

    Two Awards were granted in this competition:

    International First Film: Güeros, directed by Alonso Ruizpalacios

    Israeli First Film: Red Leaves, directed by Baze Gete

    Members of the Jury: Eithne O’Neill, Andrzej Kolodynski, Pablo Utin

The Israeli Film Critics Forum Prize

    This award for excellence in Israeli Cinema was presented to The Kindergarten Teacher, directed by Nadav Lapid.

      In a world that does not appreciate artists, where sensitive souls don’t stand a chance, a poetry-loving kindergarten teacher discovers a child poet and decides to take it upon herself to nurture him, to save his greatness from the world, to salvage him from the banal, the mediocre and the crude – to save him from life itself. It is the story of a female Don Quixote, who strives to save the world through the poetry of a child, and of a pensive child who has no desire to be saved.

Audience Favorite Award presented to Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, directed by Ronit Elkabetz and Shlomi Elkabetz.

More Information

The 32nd Jerusalem Film Festival is set fr July, 2015, with specific dates yet to me announced. For more about the Jerusalem Film Festival’s 2014 edition and updates on the schedule for 2015, visit the feativals official Website

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