The 14th annual Israeli Film Festival presents four films illuminating the pull of tradition in Israel, where culture and history have the tenacity to stretch and even fray lives.
The festival opens on Thursday, June 8 with “Past Life.” Director Avi Nesher’s film intricately explores the effect of the Holocaust on survivors and their children. In 1977, Sephi, a talented musician, travels with an Israeli choir to Berlin. After the performance, a Polish woman accosts her and calls her father a murderer. With the aid of the woman’s son, a German-Polish composer, Sephi investigates what really happened when her father was hidden during the war, drawing both generations into a fugue of recrimination and forgiveness. The film is based on real events: Israeli composer Ella Milch-Sheriff wrote the opera “Baruch’s Silence,” based on her father’s wartime diary.
In director Maysaloun Hamoud’s remarkable feature debut, “In Between (Bar Bahar),” to be screened on Sunday, June 11, three Arab-Israeli women roommates in Tel Aviv pursue modern Israeli lives while inexorably alienating themselves from their families and villages, just a few hours, but a world away. Lalia, a criminal lawyer, loves to party hard and go clubbing. Salma, a lesbian Arab Christian, is a DJ and bartender. Conservative Muslim Nur, who studies computer science, is engaged to a devout man who objects to the bad influences of Tel Aviv life and wants her to move to Jaffa. Ensuing ruptures in the three women’s relationships bring them bitter enlightenment leavened with strength.
Director Yariv Mozar discovered six hours of a 1968 interview with David Ben-Gurion in the Steven Spielberg Jewish Film Archive, added additional historical footage and created “Ben-Gurion: Epilogue,” the ruminations of the 82-year-old lion in the last years of his life. The documentary, to be screened on Thursday, June 15, captures Ben-Gurion’s reflections on shepherding an agrarian, socialist State of Israel into a modern military power, and on his retirement to a kibbutz in the Negev. Through home movies and news reels, the portrait is both intimate and historic.
The festival closes on Thursday, June 22 with Emil Ben Shimon’s warm and spicy “The Women’s Balcony (Ismach Hatani).” When the women’s balcony at a small Mizrachi synagogue collapses during a bar mitzvah, the congregation is in crisis – the rabbi’s wife in a coma, the rabbi in shock, no one to lead them or find enough men for a minyan. Into the breech steps a young haredi rabbi whose joyless version of Jewish practice ruffles relations in the tight-knit community. The men, who are small shop keepers, defer to the rabbi’s erudition, while the women are exiled from their beloved space in the synagogue: hidden away in the name of modesty. The women join forces straining shalom bayit to rebuild what has been lost. Ultimately, love and marriage triumph.
All films begin at 7 pm, have English subtitles and take place at the Richcraft Hall (formerly River Building) Theatre, 43 Campus Avenue, Carleton University.
Tickets are $13 (general public) and $9 (SJCC members, Canadian Film Institute members, seniors, and students). Tickets are available at the door, cash only.
The Israeli Film Festival is sponsored by the Canadian Film Institute and the Israel Cultural Forum (Soloway JCC, Vered Israel Cultural and Educational Program, Embassy of Israel, Jewish Federation of Ottawa, and the Canada-Israel Cultural Foundation).
For information, contact Ella Dagan, Vered Israel Cultural and Educational Program manager, at 613-798-9818, ext. 243, or email@example.com.