Filmmakers keen to see the latest in international low-budget feature production have a chance to see eight new films, all made for budgets of under US$1.2m, screening in Sydney and Melbourne. The eight features - shot on HD, DV, Super 16 and 35mm - come from Israel, a country following hot on the heels of Denmark as a centre for critically acclaimed low-budget feature production, and are part of the AICE Israeli Film Festival 2006.
The Australia Israel Cultural Exchange (ACIE) advances the exchange of culture between Australia and Israel as a means of encouraging art and artistic links. In May-June this year, Israel was treated to a host of Australian films in the AICE Australian Film Festival 2006. In August-September, Israeli films come to our shores.
Como Cinema, South Yarra, and the Bay Street Cinema, Brighton
29 August-3 September
Academy Twin, Paddington
For those who missed it in the IndiVision Screenings earlier this year, the opening night film will be Berlin International Film Festival-winner Close to Home, a frank and fresh look at two teenage female soldiers on the streets of Jerusalem. The season also includes the Israeli/German co-production What a Wonderful Place, which won five Israeli Academy Awards including Best Picture.
Close to Home (Karov La Bayit) (2005)
Directors: Vidi Bilu, Dalya Hager
Format: HD with transfer to 35mm
Awards: Berlin International Film Festival
Though they have little in common, Smadar and Mirit are assigned as partners to patrol the streets of Jerusalem as part of their military service. Frequently at odds with each other about responsibilities, boys, fashion, even mobile phones, they focus on their daily concerns. Smadar is street-wise, Mirit reserved and withdrawn. A multifaceted relationship develops between them. Then, one day, Jerusalem's political reality is forced upon them.
A highly accessible film, which mixes humour, tragedy, tenderness and political acumen…
Salt of the Earth (Melach Ha'aretz) (2006)
Director: Uri Barbash
"At times, behind common sense hides insanity." They were four friends, blood brothers, bound together by their many years of army experience. They had careers, love, hopes and a future. But they wanted more: they needed more. Then Nadav proposes that they commit the perfect crime. Perfect planning was to be the secret - meticulous in every detail, anticipation of potential problems. But the reality is always different and, behind friendship, lies betrayal.
Three Mothers (Shalosh Imahot) (2006)
Director: Dina Zvi-Riklis
Format: HD with transfer to 35mm
Awards: Jerusalem Film Festival
Rose, Flora and Jasmine were born in Alexandria, Egypt in 1943. As triplets they were blessed by King Faruk. Today, they live together in Israel: Flora has just retired; Rose, once a popular singer, dreams of a comeback; Jasmine is in urgent need of a kidney transplant. But their lives are clouded by secrets and lies from the past. They need to clear their consciences and reach out to Rocha, Rose's only daughter. But as the three sisters tell their stories, Rocha's own world disintegrates.
What a Wonderful Place (Eize Makom Nifla) (2005)
Director: Eyal Halfon
Format: Super 16mm with blow up to 35mm
Awards: Five Israeli Academy Awards (2005) including Best Film; Karlovy Vary Film Festival; Jerusalem Film Festival; Brooklyn Film Festival; Bucharest Film Festival
Ex-policeman Franco works for a brutal gangster who trades in sex workers and gambling. Franco redeems himself through his friendship with Yana, a Ukranian illegally smuggled into Israel. Zeltzer is a lonely farmer in the Negev who befriends his Thai workers. Yoav, a tough Nature Reserve Ranger, is preoccupied with concerns for his disabled father. In an ambitious and multi-layered award-winning film exploring loneliness, our need for compassion and human contact, three separate stories and the people involved become intertwined by casual co-incidences.
Complex yet easily digestible, hard-hitting but leavened with poignant humour, distinctly Israeli while tackling international themes. VARIETY MAGAZINE
Love and Dance (Sipur Hatzi Rusi) (2006)
Director: Eitan Anner
Chen's mother is Russian, his father Israeli. He is caught in the middle of the clash of cultures between them. By chance, Chen stumbles across a ballroom dance class for young people, where he sees Nathalie. But Nathalie already has a partner and the pair is determined to win the forthcoming televised championship. Chen must choose: his judo class or his dance class, his father or his mother. A Billy Elliot of Israeli film, Love and Dance is a warm-hearted, wry love story that explores cultural and personal identity.
Little Heroes (Giborim Ktanim) (2005)
Director: Itai Levy
A young couple go missing while on a jeep tour of the Negev Desert. Nir, a young boy whose father was killed in a failed military operation, Lev, a gentle giant and Erez, an outcast in his own kibbutz, all join forces with Aliciya, the young Russian girl with telepathic powers, to find them. In their travels through the wild terrain, the four social outsiders bond together into a heroic team whilst at the same time maturing and overcoming social adversity and the physical demands placed on them in order to reach their goal.
Something Sweet (Mashehu Matok) (2004)
Director: Dan Turgeman
Format: HD with transfer to 35mm
Set against the backdrop of a Moshav in northern Israel, this is a heart-warming romantic love story between Tamar (witty, beautiful and the eldest of three daughters in a Jewish-Moroccan family) and Alon, her youngest sister's fiancé. Maya and Alon arrive from London for a family wedding. Alon's enchantment with the close-knit family, the simplicity of village life and serene landscape opens his heart to an almost unattainable closeness with Tamar.
Wonderful performances, colourful cinematography and a tightly woven and intricate script highlight this sharp and sassy film. TORONTO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL
Out of Sight (Lemarit Ayin) (2005)
Director: Daniel Syrkin
Format: DV with transfer to 35mm
Awards: New York Film Festival, Israeli Academy Awards (2005), Houston International Film Festival
Ya'ara, a young blind woman, returns to Israel from the US following the death of her best friend, Talia. As the week of mourning progresses, fuelled by childhood memories, she begins to question the reasons for Talia's suicide and sets out to find the truth. Inseparable since childhood, Ya'ara will stop at nothing to understand her friend's decision to take her own life. As the secrets unfold, the lies, deceits and hidden truths lead Ya'ara to a very different reality to the one she remembers.
Well crafted and performed, has excellent production values and is tautly paced throughout. Films42.com
For the AICE Israeli Film Festival 2006 full program go to their website.