As Israel’s summer of war drags on, it feels like the nation has fewer friends than ever. European hostility toward Israel is at record highs and international conferences, tour groups and cultural events are being nixed left and right.
That’s what makes Czech Film Week, which kicked off its fifth annual Israel event in Tel Aviv earlier this week, so very special indeed.
The festival of Czech cinema, which despite its name is actually nearly three weeks long, is the annual culmination of ongoing film-centric partnerships between the Czech Republic and the Jewish State. Sponsored by the Czech Center Tel Aviv in partnership with the Embassy of the Czech Republic and the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Holon Cinematheques, the event this year kicked off Aug. 18 with the film “Like Never Before,” and director Zdenek Tyc was on hand to personally unveil the film.
With ongoing rocket fire raining down on all corners of Israel, however, Tyc got a more unique experience than he had bargained for.
“He experienced his first rocket attack yesterday as we were going from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv, and we had to leave the car and seek shelter. He said that experience was really something for him – it was his first time in a war experience,” said Lukas Pribyl, director of the Czech Center of Tel Aviv, who was also in the car during the siren.
Israel and the Czech Republic have a long, firm relationship, Pribyl explains, one which was first cemented by Tomas Garrigue Masaryk, the nation’s founder and first president, visited then-British Mandate Palestine and later rallied for the establishment of Israel (geography buffs will recognize the many homages to Masaryk in Israeli place names, including Tel Aviv’s Kikar Masaryk). Film Week, Pribyl says, is an extension of the warmth and trust between the nations.
“The relationship [between Israel and the Czech Republic] is very strong, and the cultural sides are wonderful. We are trying to do as many mutual projects between Czech and Israeli artists are possible because it’s important for people to meet each other and work together,” he says.
Other highlights of the festival include a visit by Jiri Madl, a young and highly beloved Czech actor who is presenting his directoral and scriptwriting debut, “To See the Sea,” during Film Week, as well as screenings of the classic Czech masterpiece “Marketa Lazarova,” which is being shown in honor of the event’s fifth anniversary and a showing; and showing of “In the Shadow,” the Czech Republic’s 2012 submission for Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Events will be held through Sept. 6 in five cities; Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, Holon and Herzliya. Ticket information and screening times can be accessed here.