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Featuring musical documentaries, Docaviv festival launches with 116 films

Israeli and international films being screened during 10-day event in Tel Aviv, held in person after last year’s online edition

Jessica Steinberg covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center.

Ehud Banai (left) with Shlomo Bar, from 'Shlomo Bar --  A Musical Documentary' being featured at the 23rd Docaviv Festival, July 1-8, 2021 (Courtesy Docaviv)
Ehud Banai (left) with Shlomo Bar, from 'Shlomo Bar -- A Musical Documentary' being featured at the 23rd Docaviv Festival, July 1-8, 2021 (Courtesy Docaviv)

Docaviv, Israel’s documentary film festival, is back in person this year after 2020’s online edition, with the 23rd installation held July 1-10 in Tel Aviv.

The festival will screen 116 documentaries, both local and internationally made, plus have sessions with filmmakers, premieres and industry events, at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, Hilton Beach and other locations.

The program reflects the current times of conflict and the aftermath of violence, said Karin Rywkind Segal, artistic director of the festival.

The films “show protests and calls for change, struggles for freedom of speech, basic liberties and human rights, the relations between humans and nature and the need to save the only planet we have,” said Rywkind Segal. “We want to look at our history and our present and use the power of film to create dialog and provoke thought on a variety of burning issues.”

This year’s opening film is “Queen Shoshana” by Kobi Farag and Morris Ben-Mayor, telling the story of Israel’s first diva, Shoshana Damari.

Damari immigrated to Mandatory Palestine with her family from Damar, Yemen, when she was an infant in 1924, and began performing in her teens. Damari was known for the distinctive Yemenite pronunciation in her Hebrew songs, and for her powerful, low-pitched voice.

From ‘Queen Shoshana’ about Israeli singer Shoshana Damari, premiering at the 23rd Docaviv Festival (Courtesy Queen Shoshana)

The film features clips and photos from Damari’s earlier years, juxtaposed with the unpacking of her archives after her 2006 death. While Damari was seen as a treasured jewel of Israeli life, little was known about her personal life.

“Queen Shoshana” is one of several music documentaries being screened at Docaviv.

There’s also “Shlomo Bar — A Musical Documentary” in which the Israeli musician and drummer speaks frankly about his life and work and how music changed his trajectory.

The festival also includes some of the recent top musical documentaries from around the world, including “Tina,” about superstar Tina Turner’s difficult life and her efforts to rebuild; a film about The Sparks Brothers; and one about folk singer Karen Dalton.

One of the festival’s premiering films is “Dayton Diaries” by veteran, award-winning Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan — a bleak, moving documentary about the opioid epidemic in the American city of Dayton, Ohio.

On the subject of grim futures is “Skies above Hebron,” Esther Hertog and Paul King’s five-year diary of three Palestinian boys growing up with Israeli soldiers and Jewish settlers watching them. They live with tension, hostility and violent incidents at all times as they attempt to form identities.

And the softer side of the festival is displayed with films like “Summer Nights,” a gentle, magical look at the world through the eyes of a 6-year-old who sleeps, dances and climbs hills while being filmed by Ohad Milstein.

Other festival highlights include a masterclass with Emmy Award-winning producer Julie Goldman, along with screenings of her films “Life, Animated” and “Buck” and her 2021 Sundance film “In the Same Breath,” which will take part in the festival’s International Competition.

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