Film festival

Singers, eco-activists, designer dreams: True tales at 25th Docaviv

Dozens of documentaries being screened at 10-day film festival hosted by Tel Aviv Cinematheque

Jessica Steinberg

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

Singer Yehuda Poliker performs on May 11, 2023, at the opening night of the 25th Docaviv Film Festival which is screening 'The Child Within Me,' about his life. (Courtesy: Docaviv)
Singer Yehuda Poliker performs on May 11, 2023, at the opening night of the 25th Docaviv Film Festival which is screening 'The Child Within Me,' about his life. (Courtesy: Docaviv)

Tel Aviv’s 25th Docaviv Festival opened Thursday, May 11 for 10 days of international and local documentaries covering a myriad of subjects, from the Russian invasion of Mariupol to musical biographies, family relations and virtual reality experiences about climate change.

The festival includes world premieres, discussions with filmmakers, and events throughout Tel Aviv and Jaffa, with screenings at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, the Suzanne Dellal Center and the Romano bar-lounge in Neve Tzedek.

Highlights include the opening film about singer Yehuda Poliker, “The Child Within Me” (which has four additional screenings), and an event with “20 Days in Mariupol” director Mstyslav Chernov, about the 20 days Chernov spent with his colleagues in the besieged city after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine.

There are also open-air screenings, beginning with “Dancing Pina” at Suzanne Dellal on May 14 about young dancers in Germany and Senegal rediscovering the works of Pina Bausch.

Free open-air screenings will be held at Cinema Migdalor, located at the Reading lighthouse, where two films, “The Last Rider” about the first American Tour de France winner Greg LeMond, and “Patrick and the Whale” about marine videographer Patrick Dykstra, will be screened on May 15 and 16.

Other screenings include “Close to Vermeer,” on the production of the biggest-ever exhibition of Vermeer’s artworks in Amsterdam, and “Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams” about designer shoemaker Salvatore Ferragamo who made his way from Italy to Hollywood.

“Vishniac,” about photographer Roman Vishniac, who photographed Jewish communities in Eastern Europe before World War II, will premiere at the festival, as will “The Center,” about the history of Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center.

Other documentaries look at larger-than-life people and their stories, from New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion and English filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock to homages for singers Little Richard, Donna Summer and Joan Baez.

The international competition lineup includes “Apolonia, Apolonia” about a young charismatic woman raised in the heart of Parisian bohemia; “Matter Out of Place” about the vast amounts of waste that humans produce; “Future Brilliant” about a tetraplegic who dreams of finding love and becoming an English teacher; and “Kokomo City,” in which four Black trans women in the American sex industry talk openly about their lives.

The Panorama program includes documentary films with broad views of different realities, including “Queen of the Deuce” about Chelly Wilson, the Jewish woman who built an empire of porn cinemas in New York, and “End of Love Season,” about an Israeli couple in their 70s who break up and divide their house in two, in a documentary filmed by their son.

“Kristos, The Last Child,” is about a tiny Greek island with goats and just 30 residents including one child, who must leave home to continue his education.

Hilla Medalia’s “Mourning in Lod” about the intertwined fates of three families affected by the May 2021 outbreak of violence in the mixed city of Lod is also being screened during the festival, offering a closeup look at the events of two years ago that had a lasting effect.

One of the final events during the festival is the presentation of the 2023 Uri Avnery Award for Courageous Journalism, and this year will include a May 18 screening of “While We Watched,” about Indian journalist Ravish Kumar who battles for freedom of the press in his country.

Following the screening, Zman Yisrael writer Tal Schneider will host a Q&A with the film’s director, Vinay Shukla.

The festival’s focus on documentaries about climate change includes the first extended reality (XR) program, with 40 augmented reality and virtual reality experiences by local and international artists, in an exhibition located in the rear area of the Cinematheque.

For more information about screening times, events and tickets, go to the Docaviv website.

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