Israel Film Festival, LA, April 18-May 2


The 27th Israel Film Festival, the largest showcase of Israeli films in the United States, return to the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Town Center in Encino, with special events at the historic Saban Theatre, 8440 Wilshire Blvd, Beverly Hills.

This year’s edition presents 30 dynamic titles, including award-winning features, thought-provoking documentaries, animated and student shorts.

Opening night gala festivities at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills will honor Sherry Lansing with the IFF’s 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award and Martin Landau will the Career Achievement Award. Iff will also bestow the Cinematic Achievement Award on Israeli actor Uri Gavriel, best known in the U.S. for his role as the blind prison doctor in “The Dark Night Rises and his starring role in “The Band’s Visit” which won eight Israeli Ophir Prizes awarded by the Israeli Film Academy.

Following the presentations will be the West Coast Premiere of “The Ballad of the Weeping Spring” the Opening Night film. Beni Torati’s award-winning, stylized crowd-pleaser features a reunion and final concert by the remaining members of legendary band, to honor a dying friend and collaborator.

At noon, on April 28th at the Saban Theater, Iff with co sponsors The 1939 Club, Jewish Community Foundation, and Stand with Us, present a Second Generation program, pay homage to Second Generation Holocaust Survivors, and their families.  The Festival will screen the critically acclaimed documentary “Numbered”, directed by Uriel Siani and Dana Doron.  A portion of the proceeds from this event will benefit Holocaust Survivors in urgent need.

Children of Holocaust survivors, known as the “Second Generation,” can be deeply affected – both negatively and positively – by the horrific events their parents experienced. The intergenerational transmission of trauma is so strong that Holocaust-related influences can even be seen in the “Third Generation,” grandchildren of survivors.  Second Generation is an all-encompassing movement set up to keep the Holocaust stories alive through community events & educational activities, actively remembering the past and teaching its lessons. 

The Festival’s Closing Night celebration will include a presentation of an IFF Lifetime Achievement Award to legendary Israeli comedians HaGashash HaHiver, perhaps the most influential comedy act in the history of Israel.  The event will take place at the Saban Theater on May 2nd, followed by a screening of “Zaytoun”, which was directed by Eran Rikles.  .

Meir Fenigstein, the director of the annual bi-coastal festival became famous in Israel as “Poogy”, a member of the beloved music group Kavaret,

from the rock group Kavaret, which became one of the most popular contemporary music groups in Israel.  After an acting career (“The Troop”, “Aunt Clara’) he founded IFF in 1982 as a means of promoting Israeli films in America.

“The Israeli film industry has been on a great upswing these past few years with bigger, better and more high profile movies than in its history,” said Meir Fenigstein, IFF’s founder and executive director.  “This year’s crop of exciting, fresh and smart pictures and programs is no exception and they showcase the broad and yet divergent stories and personalities only Israel can produce.”

Opening Night Film
 Director: Benny Toraty.  Star Uri Gavriel will attend the screening.
Torn apart by tragedy, a legendary band reunites to play an emotional final concert in The Ballad of the Weeping Spring, a stylized homage to Spaghetti Westerns and samurai epics, shot entirely in Israel but set in a mythical time and place.  With a pervasive pan-ethnic soundtrack serving as the film’s backbone, the story centers on the brooding Josef Tawila (Ophir winner Uri Gavriel), once the leader of a Mizrahi band (a unique musical form combining Middle Eastern and North African influences), who lives a hermit-like existence in the wake of a terrible accident. In a series of quirky vignettes across stunning exotic locations, Tawila brings together his old musician buddies to grant the last wishes of a dying friend, while healing his own tortured soul. Nominated for nine Israeli Oscars (Ophir Awards) with wins for Best Original Music, Best Original -Soundtrack, Best Production Design and Best Costume Design.

Country: Israel  Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
Running Time: 105 min. Year: 2012
 Genre: Drama
Closing Night Film
 Director: Eran Riklis
In Lebanon, 1982, an Israeli fighter pilot is shot down over Beirut. When one of his captors, an angry and disillusioned young Palestinian refugee, decides he has had enough of the meaningless fighting, the pair makes a pact to escape. So begins a perilous journey across a war-torn country to a far-off place they can both call home. With a cast led by Stephen Dorff (Somewhere), Zaytoun is a superb road movie that, with humor and pathos, explores the growing friendship of two enemies born out of mutual dependency.
Country: Israel  
Languages: English, Arabic, Hebrew, w. English Subtitles
 Running Time:  107 Min.
Year:  2012
 Genre: Adventure / Drama / Thriller / War

Director: Noa Haroni
It is the summer of 1978, on the backdrop of the imminent peace accords with Egypt, Michal is dealing with her 7 year old daughter Maya’s inability to read and write and her teacher threatening to hold her back a year. Michal vows that by the end of the summer Maya will read, write and move on to the next grade. However, this summer is set to be full of surprises. Michal’s father, Haim, who has been missing for twenty years, suddenly returns, and brings with him the family’s dark past and hidden secrets. By summer’s end, Michal will have to deal with the past that her family has tried so hard to bury and the painful, yet liberating process of discovery and forgiveness.

Jury Special Mention, The Rehovot Women’s International Film Festival 2011
- Israel Film Center in New York Distribution Award, Haifa International Film Festival 2011

Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
 Running Time:  96 min. 
Year: 2011 Genre: Drama / Family

NOTE: “The charming and witty story of suburbia and family life was a real hit among the jury”, the Haifa International Film Festival Jury

DR. POMERANTZ  Director: Assi Dayan

Producer Eyal Shiray will be attending the screening
Dr. Yoel Pomerantz, 64, an unemployed clinical psychologist, lives in poverty in his 12th floor apartment with his son Yoav, 30, who works as a parking inspector and suffers from severe “ticketomania.”  Dr. Pomerantz volunteers at ANA, the psychology hotline, and as an expert on suicide callers, he suggests that they come to his clinic for private therapy sessions. One day, a patient named Shtark is offended when Pomerantz arrives late for a session and jumps off his 12th floor balcony to his death. Shtark’s suicide provides the doctor with a life changing idea – to let his apartment to potentially suicidal tenants for enormous sums of money.  Funny, sad and philosophical, this black comedy raises the important question of why we live or, more accurately, why we don’t just give up on living.

Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
 Running Time:  88 Min.
Year: 2011
 Genre: Drama

Note: Writer-Director- Actor Dayan plays the desperate Dr. Pomerantz.

Director: Rama Burshtein
Eighteen-year-old Shira is the youngest daughter of her family and is about to be married to a lovely young man of the same age. On Purim, her twenty-eight-year-old sister, Esther, dies during childbirth, leaving her husband Yochay to care for the child and postponing Shira’s promised wedding. When the girls’ mother finds out that Yochay may leave the country with her only grandchild, she proposes a match between Shira and the widower, forcing Shira to choose between her wish for a happy marriage and her family’s desire to keep the child near them.

2012 Venice Film Festival winner for Best Actress
- 2012 Winner Best Feature, Israeli Oscars (Ophir Awards)
- Israeli entry for the Best Foreign Language Oscar at the Academy Films Awards

Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
 Running Time:  90 Min.
Year: 2012
 Genre: Drama

NOTE: First commercial feature by Hassidic writer-director Rama Burshstein, a romantic comedy-drama, charmed audiences at the Venice Film Festival with its peek into the Orthodox Hassidic community of Tel Aviv.

GOD’S NEIGHBORS Director: Meny Yaesh.
Actor Roy Assaf will be attending the screening
God’s Neighbors is a raw and provocative dramatic thriller from first-time writer director Meny Yaesh. The film follows Avi, Kobi and Yaniv, three young men who belong to the Breslev Hassidic community and place themselves in charge of supervising the codes of modesty, without hesitating to use violence to convey the message. Order is upended when the attractive, independent-minded Miri moves into the neighborhood. Avi is torn between his feelings for her and the codes of the gang.
– 2012 SACD Award Festival De Cannes
- Nominated for 2012 nine Ophir Awards of the Israeli Film Academy
- 2012 Ophir Award winner for Best Actor, and Best Supporting Actor
Country: Israel 
Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
 Running Time:  70 Min.
Year: 201 
Genre: Drama

 Director: Evgeny Ruman.
Director Evgeny Ruman will be attending the screening
When Tanya informs her 11-year-old son, Igor, that they will be leaving their home in Russia to start a new life in Israel, the boy’s world falls apart. He is desperate to stay, even to the point of imagining himself living with the father he hardly knows: Peter, an avid ornithologist. Peter, however, is too obsessed with tracking the annual crane migration from Russia to Africa to care for his son. Like the cranes on their long and perilous journey, Igor too must overcome the hardships and tribulations of migration and reassess his relationship with his father.
– 2012 Winner, Special Mention Award Haifa International Film Festival
Director: Evgeny Ruman

Country: Israel, Germany, Poland 
Languages: Hebrew, Russian w. English Subtitles 
Running Time: 90 Min.
Year: 2012
 Genre: Adventure/Family


Director: Nony Geffen
When a repressed high-school teacher loses his job, he decides to pull his entire life down with it. Within the span of a few days, he will kidnap a teenage student, reconnect with his old high-school crush, forgive an old friend and kill his mother. He will then openly challenge a rabid group of feminists, a pompous movie star, the vengeful police and the stifling conventions of his boring small town. A drama, dark comedy, love triangle, crime story and much, much more, this adventure could only happen to people who are not in Tel Aviv.
– 2012 Locarno International Film Festival, Special Jury Prize – Filmmakers of the Present

Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles 
Running Time: 82 Min.
Year: 2012
 Genre: Comedy, Crime, Drama

NOTE: Geffen’s low budget black and white dramedy, beautifully shot by Ziv Bercovich represents a punk approach to cinema. A score by Indie artist Uzi Ramirez, aka Uzi Feinerman with the the song “Giant Heart”, by Rotem Bar or (The Angelcy) with singer Romi Aboulafia add to the film’s edgy charm.

 Director: Maya Kenig
After years of living apart from her father, Libby, an introverted yet sharp-witted teenager, is sent to live with him in Israel. Her arrival coincides with the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War. Libby quickly discovers that her father, Shaul, is an infantile eccentric who is “in-between apartments” (in other words: homeless). Shaul comes up with a creative plan to put a roof over their heads—they pose as refugees from the bombarded Northern region of Israel, and are taken in by an affluent family in Jerusalem. Finally in a “normal” household, Shaul and Libby begin to build their father-daughter relationship. However, their false identities cannot last forever, especially as Libby unleashes her teenage fury at the lies permeating her life.
-Best Actor, Jerusalem Film Festival 2011 – Gur Bentwich
-Special Jury Prize – Annonay Festival 2013
-Best Film Music Prize – Annonay Festival 2013
Country: Israel, France
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles, English
 Running Time:  86 Min.
Year: 2011
 Genre: Drama

 Director: Yariv Horowitz
Director Yariv Horowitz will be attending the screening
In the early summer of 1989, a company of young Israeli soldiers reports for duty in the occupied area of the Gaza Strip. Clashes with the Palestinian population claim their first fatality: a soldier named Iliya, who is killed by a washing machine being dropped from the rooftop of an apartment.  In order to capture the perpetrator, part of the company; Aki, Ariel, Haim and Tomer take up a defensive position on the roof for the weekend. In spite of vehement protests from the building’s Palestinian owner, the men begin their vigil. The film deals with the charged interactions among the soldiers, between the soldiers and the family, with their commanding officers and the surrounding chaos.
– Won Prize of International Confederation of Art Cinemas, Berlin International Film Festival

Country: Israel/France
Languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Russian, w. English Subtitles
 Running Time: 93 Min.
 Year: 2012
 Genre: Drama

ROOM 514 Director: Sharon Bar Ziv
On one side of Room 514 is a young, beautiful and determined Russian female military investigator. On the other side is a gruff, exceptional Israeli army officer accused of overstepping his authority.  As the two sides confront each other over truth and justice, they soon find themselves dealing with the complex reality where it is not easy to distinguish between good and bad. In the rough land of Israel, good and bad must sometimes coexist.
Nominated for an Israeli Oscars (Ophir Awards) for Best Actress 2012
- Best Israeli Film Docaviv Int’l Film Festival 2011, Best Editing award

Country: Israel 
Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles 
Running Time: 90 Min.
 Year: 2012 
 Genre: Drama

Official Site Link:

NOTE: Sharon Bar-Ziv’s had-held first feature, a standout ate the Tribeca Film Festival, pits a young female idealistic Israeli military investigator against an elite officer and the male dominated environment of the Security Forces, Refusing to back down from her final “political’ investigation, before leaving the Israeli Defense Forces. Rehearsed like a play, Bar-Ziv, mixes claustrophobic investigation scenes with artfully shot location work. Bar-Ziv”s investigation into undue violence used against prisoners (n this case, a Palestinian from the Occupied Territories) could happen in any country

Director: Ami Livne
No one appreciates Kamel Nadjer, the young Bedouin security guard at the Be’er Sheba central bus station. When his poor desert village is threatened by demolition by the Israeli government, Kamel decides to take action. He will stage a bomb attack in the bus station and then prevent it, becoming a hero, preserving his village, and win the admiration he so desperately desires.
Berlinale Panorama official selection, 2012
- Best Feature Film Award, Jerusalem Film Festival, 2012
Country: Israel, France, Germany 
Languages: Arabic, Hebrew, w. English Subtitles 
 Running Time: 82 min.
Y ear: 2012
 Genre: Drama

NOTE: Ami Livne’s modest, low-key first feature, cast with non-pro actors, in the Negev desert, personalizes the traditional life of Bedouins.  Khaled (Adnan Abu Muhareb) raises goats in the traditional manner. He considers his brother Kamel (Adnan Abu Wadi), a bus station security guard and sometimes repairman, a traitor for mixing with the modern state.  The brothers’ illegal shack community is threatened by a state order to pull down the structures and Lhalkid is driven to a desperate plan.
 Director: Naomi Levari
Ameer Abu Ria is about to enlist in the army. As opposed to the majority of eighteen-year-old boys in Israel, for whom army service is mandatory, Ameer is exempt from military service under the assumption that his enlistment may endanger Israel’s security. That is because Ameer, an Israeli citizen, is a Muslim Arab. And yet, Ameer has decided to volunteer. He believes that his induction is the way to equality, and is the way to belong to the state he lives in, the state he wants to love.  He is considered an enemy, a fifth column in the eyes of Israeli Jews, and a traitor of the worst kind in the eyes of Arab citizens; the kind who turns against his brothers.  All alone, Ameer sets out on a journey to civic and self-definition, while carefully navigating the thin line between Jewish and Arab societies. Ameer, an eternal optimist, wishes to be both a proud Arab and an enthusiastic Israeli, while his only enemy is reality.
Special Mention – Jerusalem International film festival 2011
-Grand Prize – FIPA 2012, London International Documentary FF
-Best international documentary – Chagrin FF, Israeli academy award nominee 2012

Country: Israel 
Languages: Hebrew, Arabic, w. English Subtitles

Running Time: 58 Min.
 Year: 2011
 Genre: Documentary, Biography

Director: Levi Zini
Ben-Amotz was the essence of “Israeliness.” He was a prolific and accomplished creator who insisted on constantly reinventing himself, while carrying along an entire society, a language and culture that were not yet fully formed. In April 1989, just before undergoing an experimental treatment for cancer, Ben-Amotz held a “farewell party,” a brilliant prank in which the dying man invited 300 of his closest friends to take part in a moving group dynamic.
Best Israeli Film Docaviv Int’l Film Festival 2011, Best Editing award
Country: Israel  
Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles 

Running Time: 75 Min. Year: 2012 
Genre: Documentary

Director: Gabriel Bibliowicz
Let’s Dance is a film about the soul of Israeli society–dance. The film presents Israeli society as a dancing society and the way in which the need to move, shift, and to be in motion has raised generations of dancers and choreographers who have turned local modern dance into a national and international success story. Through the works of leading choreographers Ohad Naharin, Rami Be’er and Yasmeen Godder, Let’s Dance opens a window to their sources of inspiration–to the vibrant and exotic world of the pioneer choreographers and to the story of the development of the local dance scene. Combining spectacular pieces of video-dance, rich archival material, interviews and visual demonstrations, the film offers a unique and surprising view on Israeli society, as well as on dance.
Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
 Running Time: 103 Min.
Year:  2012 Genre: Documentary

NOTE: Gabriel Bibliowicz celebrates the power of Israeli’s Modern Dance, against a background of the folk and social dance roots as seen in pre-World War I Israel and Germany. Footage of dance in Kaiser and Nazi Germany through the present are a fascinating document.

Director: Tamar Tal
Tamar Tal’s poignant, prize-winning documentary tells the story of Miriam Weissenstein as she and her grandson Ben Peter defend their family’s iconic Tel Aviv photo studio from demolition. Miriam’s late husband, Rudi was the unofficial photographer of the State of Israel, and documented the country’s political and daily life from the 1930s until his passing in 1992. Grandmother and grandson cope not only with the impending shop relocation, but also acutely painful family circumstances. As they interact in ways by turns blunt and comic, the movie becomes a love story spanning three generations. The film offers a visual ode to Weissenstein’s late husband Rudi, with moving montages of his stunning black & white photographs of Israel including his world famous photo of David Ben-Gurion proclaiming Israel’s Independence in May of 1948.
Won the Israeli Oscars (Ophir Awards), for Best Documentary 2012
-Audience Award Winner – Berlin Jewish Film Festival 2012
- Best Debut Documentary – Docu Be’er Sheva, Israel 2012
- Best Documentary – Doc Aviv International Documentary Film Festival 2011

Country: Israel, Germany  
Languages: Hebrew, German, w. English Subtitles
 Running Time: 58 Min. 
Year: 2011
Genre: Documentary, Biography

Director: Eytan Harris
Galia Pardo lives happily and quietly with her husband and four children in the tiny provincial town of Zichron Yaakov, where she is well-liked and well-known as the local florist and a singer in the town choir. One day Galia makes a shocking decision: she closes the flower shop and opens a sex shop! Will the conservative inhabitants of the small town accept Galia and her new shop? Will the new shop flourish in such an environment? Will her family and friends support her or abandon her to her “craziness”? Lola is humoristic documentary that might give you a new perspective on sex shops and the people who own them.
Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles

Running Time: 57 Min.
 Year: 2012 
Genre: Documentary

NUMBERED Directors: Uriel Sinai, Dana Doron

Director Uriel Sinai will be attending the screening.
Auschwitz prisoners, both Jewish and non-Jewish, were tattooed with serial numbers, first on their chests and then their left arms. An estimated 400,000 numbers were tattooed in Auschwitz and its sub-camps; only some several thousand survivors are still alive today. Numbered is an explosive, highly visual, and emotionally cinematic journey, guided by testimonies and portraits of these survivors. The film documents the dark time and setting during which these tattoos were assigned as well as the meaning they took on in the years following the war. In fact, the film’s protagonist is the number itself, as it evolves and becomes both a personal and collective symbol from 1940 to today. These scars, paradoxically unanimous and anonymous, reveal themselves to be diverse, enlightening, and full of life.
Best Debut Film Award at the Israeli Documentary Forum Awards 2012
- The Silver Hugo Award at the Chicago International Film Festival 2012
- Best Israeli Film Docaviv Int’l Film Festival 2011, Best Editing award
Country: Israel
 Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
Running Time:  55 Min.
Year: 2012 
Genre: Documentary

Director: Ofer Naim
Director Ofer Naim and Shayke Levi and Gavri Banai of HaGashash HaHiver will be attending the screening
Israel “Poli” Poliakov of the legendary Israeli comedy trio “HaGashash HaHiver” was one of Israel’s greatest actors and comedians. Five years after his passing, his family, friends and colleagues have gathered to share the story of his career as an actor, comedian and family man. His friends from “HaGashash HaHiver” and from showbiz, tell little anecdotes about him and, using clips from the best of “HaGashash HaHiver,” they give a rare glimpse into the life of the man who portrayed so many famous and beloved characters, while he himself remained in their shadows. The void that Poli left in the hearts of his fellow “HaGashash HaHiver” bandmates and the hearts of his devoted fans and family is evident in this touching and intimate film.
Country: Israel Languages: Hebrew w. English Subtitles
Running Time: 55 Min.
 Year: 2012  Genre: Documentary

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About Author

Robin Menken

Robin Menken Robin Menken lives in Los Angeles. She was the Artistic Director of the Second City Workshops, taught at UC Berkeley, USC, Barcelona\'s Ateneu and the Esalin Institute. She was Roberto Rossellini\'s assistant, and worked with Yevgeny Vevteshenku, Glauber Rocha and Eugene Ionesco. She sold numerous screenplays and wrote the OBIE winning The FTA SHow (touring with Jane Fonda, Donald Sutherland and Ben Vereen.) She was a programming consultant and Special Events co-ordinator for numerous film festivals, including the SF, Rio, Havana and N.Y Film Festivals. Her first news outlet was the historic East Village Other.

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