10 days, 20 documentaries: Docaviv film festival goes online

Docustream will screen Israeli and international films May 13-23, as annual May event is postponed to September

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

US documentary 'Kingmaker' will be screened at Docustream, a digital film festival being held online May 13-23 by Docaviv, which normally holds its annual festival in May (Courtesy 'Kingmaker')
US documentary 'Kingmaker' will be screened at Docustream, a digital film festival being held online May 13-23 by Docaviv, which normally holds its annual festival in May (Courtesy 'Kingmaker')

Docaviv, Tel Aviv’s documentary film festival, is on hold this month, but a shortened version of the annual Israeli documentary film festival is coming to your own screen.

Docustream, a selection of 20 documentary films, half of them international, and the other half Israeli, will take place online from May 13 to 23, while the annual Docaviv event has been moved from May to September 3-12, in the hopes that audiences will be able to gather by then.

“We hope we’ll be able to run the festival as usual,” said Karin Rywkind Segal, who directs the festival, which is held in the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. “Of course, like everyone else, we don’t know for sure.

The film screenings are only available to Israeli viewers, although the webinars attached to some of the films are open to viewers anywhere.

For now, however, the film festival team put together a small bundle of films, most of which have already been screened at previous Docavivs. The exception is “Kingmaker,” a fascinating work about the shockingly self-absorbed Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines, which was supposed to premiere at Docaviv this month, with an in-person appearance by director Lauren Greenfield.

“Kingmaker” will lead the shortened digital festival, and Greenfield will lead a webinar on Thursday, May 14, at 8 p.m.


“We wanted to provide something for our audiences and for new audiences,” said Rywkind Segal. “I don’t think anything can replace the experience of the theater but we have to adjust. We also don’t want culture to die and we want to support filmmaking and Israeli filmmaking.”

For a different view of human nature, try “Dina,” a Sundance Film Festival winner about  a woman with special needs on the eve of her wedding to Scott.

Past favorites at Docaviv included “Finding Vivian Maier,” about the discovery of hundreds of exquisite photos and the hidden mysteries of the woman who took them.

The Israeli films had debuted at previous Docaviv festivals within the past decade, but were first or second films for their directors.

While some of the Israeli films are available through the satellite YES documentary channel, others are completely independent and harder to find.

Keep an eye out for “Golda,” a 2018 film about Israel’s first and only female prime minister Golda Meir, on Monday, May 18 at 7 p.m., which will include a webinar with the filmmakers.

Another gripping Israeli documentary is “Open Your Mouth, a 2019 documentary about three 12-year-old Arab boys from the troubled city of Lod, who find themselves with a choir teacher who is determined to get them to sing.

All the films are available for 12 hours from the start of their screening. The webinars included in some of the film screenings are free, but viewers must register ahead of time. There is a NIS 10 fee for each film or a flat fee of NIS 80 for viewing all 20 films.

All profits made from the Israeli films screened at Docustream will go directly to the filmmakers, said Rywkind Segal, as a form of support during this difficult time.

The goal of the event is to show the audience that films are still out there, said Rywkind Segal, without having to wait until September, when the festival will hopefully take place.

The digital event is particularly important for audiences who attend Docaviv’s other events, including Docaviv Galilee in the northern town of Ma’alot-Tarshiha and Docaviv Negev in Yeruham. Those farther-flung audiences won’t get to see some of these documentaries if the festivals are canceled.

“This effort is our way of trying to reach all Israelis,” said Rywkind Segal. “People normally wouldn’t access these films because of where they live, so this is a way of reaching everyone at a minimum price.”

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