The Israel Film Festival Gears Up for 2008 Program

The 23rd Israel Film Festival, the largest showcase of Israeli films in the United States, will screen close to 60 Israeli features, documentaries and award-winning student films. The festival will take place in Los Angeles from June 12th – June 26th, 2008. In honor of Israel’s 60th anniversary, the Festival will host an unprecedented Retrospective of classic Israeli movies, including all seven Israeli films nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

The Gala Awards Dinner, on Wednesday, June 11th at The Beverly Hilton Hotel, will include IFF Award Presentations to Jeffrey Berg (Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of International Creative Management, Inc.), Kirk Douglas, Menahem Golan (one of the most significant Founding Fathers of the Israeli film industry), Carl Reiner (the quintessential man of comedy) and Rob Reiner (actor, director, producer). For the first time ever, a portion of funds raised from the Gala will support scholarships for Israeli students to study cinema in six major film schools in Israel.

“On the momentous occasion of Israel’s 60th birthday, we are very proud to present films which showcase the flourishing and dynamic Israeli film industry with the newest films of today, many of which have never before been shown in the U.S.,” noted Meir Fenigstein, the Founder/Executive Director of the Israel Film Festival.

The Festival’s Opening Night on June 12th will be held at the Cinerama Dome at the ArcLight Hollywood. On that night festivalgoers will be treated to the U.S. Premiere of “The Secrets”, directed by Avi Nesher and starring Fanny Ardant, Ania Bukstein and Michal Shtamler.

For more information, including ticketing prices, visit

The Complete Festival Lineup:


“The Secrets”
U.S. Premiere, Festival Opening Night Film (2007, 120 minutes)
Director: Avi Nesher
The Secrets presents the complexities of a religious lifestyle within the context of youth, rebellion and desire. Naomi postpones marriage to the prodigy of her ultra orthodox rabbi father to study at a Jewish seminary for women in the ancient Kabalistic seat of Safed following her mother’s death. Her quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends Michelle, a free-spirited but headstrong fellow student. Their unlikely alliance is jeopardized by a mysterious older woman named Anouk, a terminally ill tortured soul shunned by the community for her crime of passion. Together, they attempt to purge her sins through a series of secret rituals. The film was nominated for eight Awards of the Israeli Film Academy, including Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Art Direction, Best Costumes, Best Editing, Best Music and Best Sound.

Los Angeles Premiere (2007, 90 minutes)
Director: Ayelet Menahemi
Spotlight Premiere Screening
Miri, a twice war-widowed 37-year-old El Al flight attendant, is unexpectedly grounded when she finds herself saddled with a small Chinese boy. She’s suddenly unchained from a melancholy existence that’s also marked by mistreatment at the hands of her sarcastic sister, Gila, a fellow flight attendant who frets about whether she should dump her husband, Izzy, who’s also an airline employee. In attempting to return the child to his migrant-worker mother who has been summarily deported from Israel, she embarks on a remarkable journey full of drama and humor that brings deep meaning to her life. The film won the Special Grand Prize of the Jury at the 2007 Montreal World Film Festival. The film won the Best Supporting Actress Award from the Israel Film Academy and earned nine other nominations, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Music, Best Sound and Best Screenplay.

“The Debt”
U.S. Premiere (2007, 93 minutes)
Director: Assaf Bernstein
Spotlight Screening
Nominated for four Israeli Academy Awards, The Debt is a spellbinding, cat-and-mouse espionage thriller set in Israel in the mid-1990s. Rachel is a retired Mossad agent whose recently published memoirs boasted how she helped capture a monstrous Nazi war criminal known as the “Surgeon of Birkenau.” But complications ensued, the prisoner never went on trial and a story was fabricated about him committing suicide. More than 30 years later, a frail, perhaps delusional, man in a nursing home in the Ukraine claims to be the surgeon, and Rachel, long considered a national hero, has some unfinished business. The film was nominated for four awards at the Israel Film Academy, including Best Supporting Actress, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Costumes.

“The Galilee Eskimos”
West Coast Premiere (2007, 99 minutes)
Director: Jonathan Paz
Spotlight Screening
An old kibbutz tucked in the Hills of Galilee plunges into bankruptcy. Men, women and children abandon their homes, leaving behind a desolate scene except for a dozen residents of an old-folk’s home on the property who discover they have been deserted and are left to fend for themselves. The largest creditor, a bank, closes a deal with a contractor who arrives at the kibbutz and is astonished to discover that the senior citizens were left behind. The group initially sinks into deep depression, feeling betrayed by their relatives and society, but organizes in hopes of rebuilding the kibbutz.

“Foul Gesture”
West Coast Premiere (2006, 100 minutes)
Director: Tzahi Grad
On the morning of Holocaust Memorial Day, Michael Klienhouse’s personal nightmare begins when he encounters Dreyfus, a 60-year-old war hero Michael’s wife, Tamar, has just flipped the middle finger (as the title suggests) to Dreyfus, who deliberately hits the gas pedal of his car and runs into Michael’s open door, almost hitting her. Michael, a law-abiding citizen, hopes to resolve the situation with the help of the authorities, only to learn that Dreyfus is a violent man with connections and friends in high places. The unfolding events replenish Michael and give him a new sense of purpose. The film won the Israeli Film Competition Award at the 2006 Haifa International Film Festival and was nominated for five awards at the Israel Film Academy, including Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Best Music.

“The Little Traitor”
(2007, 83 minutes)
Director: Lynn Roth
Based on Panther in the Basement by world-renowned novelist, Amos Oz, this beautiful story of an implausible friendship between an amiable British soldier and a spirited, 11-year-old Israeli militant who wants the occupying imperialists off his land takes place just a few months before Israel achieves independent statehood. When Proffy Liebowitz meets British officer Sergeant Dunlop, he’s reprimanded for roaming the streets after dark and breaking curfew. They later become friends, but town officials soon learn of their secret and accuse the boy of being a traitor. The ensuing events will forever change their respective outlook on life.

(2007, 85 minutes)
Directors: Erez Tadmor & Guy Netiv
Described as the story of a globe-trotting, Israeli Romeo who meets a Palestinian Juliet, Strangers puts love to the test in time of war. Eyal, an Israeli kibbutznik, and Rana, an expat Palestinian living in Paris, visit Berlin for the 2006 World Cup finals where they’re forced to share an apartment after accidentally swapping backpacks. Over three intensive days their friendship turns to love as they’re drawn out of the stark reality of their lives and into a passionate affair as the second Israel-Lebanon war plays out. When it’s time to go home, they must decide where to go to from there. The film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize (World Cinema – Dramatic) at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Wolgin Award for Most Promising Actress at the Jerusalem Film Festival and was nominated for Best Actor at the Israeli Film Academy.

“The Shelter”
(2007, 102 minutes)
Director: Roy Hornshtein
In this compelling drama written and directed by Roy Hornshtein, an Israeli father and his 11-year-old son are forced to take refuge in an underground shelter during a missile attack. When the son awakes that next morning, he’s shocked to learn from his father that the bombing resulted in severe destruction and together they must get accustomed to their new underground reality, which includes food and water shortages. He’s also reeling from the death of his mother six months earlier and gradually realizes that his father, who becomes detached and cruel, had been keeping secrets from him.


“Children of the Sun”
Los Angeles Premiere (2007, 70 minutes)
Director: Ran Tal
Winner of the 2007 Jerusalem International Film Festival’s Best Documentary Award, Children of the Sun is an unconventional history of the kibbutz movement that inspired so many of the original settlers in the Holy Land. What was it like to grow up driven by such strong idealism? What was the impact of living in quarters where children were raised together largely separate from their parents? Director Ran Tal, who himself grew up on a kibbutz, turns to other members of his generation, using their words and home movies to reveal a thoroughly fascinating, conflicted and authentic portrait of a disappearing world.

“I’m a Civil War”
U.S. Premiere (2007, 45 minutes)
Director: Omri Lior
This 45-minute documentary depicts the extraordinary life and work of Israel Prize winner Chaim Guori as a reflection of Israel’s history. Born in 1923, the 84-year-old Tel Aviv native made his mark as an author, journalist and filmmaker whose first book, “Flowers of Fire,” was published in 1949 when he still was a soldier. Guori, who takes a critical look at the political and social reality of his beloved homeland, mourns from the northern border next to Mettula that “everything has changed and the feeling of hatred and being under siege continues and the land continues to bleed.”

“Peres Rabin – Everything is Personal”
West Coast Premiere (2007, 64 minutes)
Director: Erik Heing
You will be deeply moved by this extraordinarily gripping exploration of the complex professional and personal ties linking Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres, two men with radically different backgrounds and temperaments whose actions – and rivalry – dramatically shaped today’s Middle East. “The Jerusalem Post” once observed that there differences were so intense, “the battle between Rabin and Peres is every bit as nasty as the ultimate sports rivalry.” Filmmaker Henig, who served as media and political advisor to Rabin and other Israeli leaders, uses never-before-seen footage and exclusive interviews to present the two men in a fresh light.

“Praying in Her Own Voice” (2007; 60 minutes)
Director: Yael Katzir
Jewish tradition and modern life clash in director Yael Katzir’s spellbinding portrait of the famed Women of the Wall movement as it does battle with the ultra-orthodox establishment in Israel over their right to wear prayer shawls and read aloud from the Torah at the Western Wall. These courageous women are followed for two years during religious services, hearings at the Israeli Supreme Court (and the aftermath of controversial rulings), and violent confrontations with their opponents. Their struggle is seen as a test case for the deprived status of women in Israeli public life, religious coercion and the hunger for equality. Yael Katzir is a filmmaker, author, college professor, wife and mother. Born in Tel Aviv in 1942, she studied at Hebrew University, UCLA and Boston University before going on to make award-winning films that include Company Jasmine, Shivah for My Mother, A Place for Everyone and a Glimpse of Paradise.

“The Quest for the Missing Piece”
Los Angeles Premiere (2007, 52 minutes)
Director: Oded Lotan
Oded Lotan, a young Jewish gay man living in Tel Aviv with his German partner, pieces together the story of his own bris while reflecting on the complex role his sexuality and time abroad has played in shaping his Israeli identity. Presented as a gently humorous fairy tale bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, the film sheds light on feelings toward the male-circumcision ritual, fear of exclusion and the need to belong. Aided by wonderful animated sequences, Lotan negotiates an emotive topic with considerable wit and panache, proving to be an endearing presence and filmmaking talent to watch.

“The Stone Flower”
U.S. Premiere (2007, 54 minutes)
Director: Sarit Haymian
Written and directed by Sarit Haymian, an Israeli-born Iranian Jew, The Stone Flower raises questions about love, relations, femininity and dreams. The film traces the lives of two elderly Jewish women, Ilanit and Naima, who came to Israel from Iran 50 years ago and married when they were young teenagers. Ilanit’s husband humiliated and beat her, but still she took care of him when he became sick. Naima had good relations with her husband and was surrounded by children and grandchildren who she always dutifully served. Now, 70-years-old, both women reflect on the choices they made and were forced to make.

“Waiting for Godik”
U.S. Premiere (2007, 60 minutes)
Director: Ari Davidovich
Nominated for the 2007 Jerusalem Film Festival’s Best Documentary award, this intimate look at the rise and fall of legendary producer and impresario Giora Godik examines the Israeli King of Musicals’ quest to bring the American dream to Tel Aviv. That vision ended when Godik unexpectedly fled to Germany on the eve of his last premiere and ended up selling hotdogs for a living at the central railway station in Frankfurt. The film glimpses into the gap between glittering lights and a life in the shadows, bringing to life the story of a man who believed that life was a musical.

“You Never Know”
(2008, 63 minutes)
Director: Boaz Shahak
Shlomo Carlebach was a brilliant young torah scholar sent by the Lubavitcher rebbe to deliver the good word from scripture to hippies in the San Francisco Bay Area for whom he once performed on guitar and vocals at a festival in 1966 wedged between Pete Seeger and the Jefferson Airplane. When his love for flower power crossed the boundaries of Jewish law, the Orthodox establishment shunned him. Carlebach, who once boasted about having composed 4,000 original melodies, died penniless 13 years ago. But his music still fills concert halls and his followers live in nearly every Jewish community.


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Christopher P. Duffy

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