Jerusalem 2014: Documentary Overview

jff-2014_1.jpgTomorrow, Thursday, July 10, was to see the launch of the 31st edition of the Jerusalem Film Festival, which annually showcases a healthy collection of new nonfiction among its 200 strong line-up. Because of recent hostilities in the region, the open air screening of the opening night film has been postponed a week, with the remainder of the festival still set to continue beginning Friday. The festival, which runs through Sunday, July 20, introduces nearly 50 documentary features to the region. The following is a rundown of some of the new and local work making its debut:

F0_0540_0329_Unwelcoming01CThe fest’s official Docs Competition includes eleven Israeli titles. Among these are: Robby Elmaliah’s THE UNWELCOMING (pictured), in which a new Djerban/Tunisian immigrant to Israel finds unexpected hostility from his own people; Yossi Aviram’s THE POLGAR VARIANT, about three Hungarian sisters groomed to be chess champions since birth; Tal Michael’s PIT BULLS FLESH & BLOOD, which finds a former cop-turned-pit bull rescuer facing off against illegal dog fight organizers; and Tomer Heymann’s ALIZA, a portrait of a famed Israeli actress, twenty years in the making. Additional local filmmaking gets its due in the Israeli Cinema sidebar, which includes television programming as well as titles such as Avida Livny’s THERE AND HERE, on Holocaust survivors who kept their past secret to become pilots; and Cecilia Lewinzon’s EL TRUCO (THE TRICK), in which the filmmaker tells the story of her father, a man obsessed with documenting his own life.

F0_0540_0329_VoicePeaceCThe Jewish Experience section instead focuses on films from outside Israel, including: Felix Moeller’s FORBIDDEN FILMS, an exploration of Nazi-produced films still banned today; Rachel Eskin Fisher and Rachel Nierenberg Pasternak’s JOACHIM PRINZ: I SHALL NOT BE SILENT, on the noted rabbi turned US civil rights activist; and Stefan Ruzowitzky’s hybrid RADICAL EVIL, a meditation on the psychology of evil, as focused on the actions of the Nazi death squads. Finally, several titles also exploring aspects of Israeli or Jewish life appear in JFF Special, including: Eric Friedler’s THE VOICE OF PEACE (pictured), about Abie Natan’s titular pacifist radio station, which broadcast off the coast of Israel for two decades; and Roberta Grossman’s ABOVE AND BEYOND, a look at the origins of the Israeli Air Force.

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