Helen Mirren, other glitterati to appear at 40th Jerusalem Film Festival

This year’s event includes hits from Sundance, Cannes, Berlin and Venice, among more than 200 movies

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

Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in Guy Nattiv's film 'Golda.' (Jasper Wolf)
Helen Mirren as Golda Meir in Guy Nattiv's film 'Golda.' (Jasper Wolf)

When the 40th Jerusalem Film Festival opens July 13 in Jerusalem’s Sultan’s Pool, the award-winning actors and directors sitting in the front row will include Helen Mirren, Oliver Stone, and the Dardenne brothers, along with Liev Schreiber, director Claire Denis, and other guests.

Mirren will receive an achievement award at the festival, celebrating her latest film — “Golda,” which will open the event — marking her illustrious career that has included winning an Oscar, Bafta, Emmy, and Tony. Mirren’s acclaim extends as well to her performances on stage, TV and film, from arthouse cinema to box office hits, such as “The Queen” and the “Fast and Furious” franchise.

One of Mirren’s fellow achievement awardees is Oliver Stone, the iconic filmmaker whose latest documentary, “Nuclear Now,” about climate change, will be presented at the festival, along with several of his classics, including “Platoon,” “Wall Street,” “JFK (1991)” and “Natural Born Killers.”

The other achievement awardees are the Dardenne brothers, Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, the Belgian filmmaking duo who have been writing, producing and directing their films together since the late 1970s.

The pair are known for their realistic works telling the stories of society, eight of which will be screened at the festival: “The Promise,” “Rosetta,” “The Son,” “The Child,” “Lorna’s Silence,” “The Kid with a Bike,” “Two Days, One Night” and “Tori and Lokita.”

It is advised to choose movies and buy tickets prior to the 10-day film extravaganza, which opens with Mirren’s “Golda,” the biopic about Golda Meir during the period of the Yom Kippur War. It was created by Oscar-winning Israeli director Guy Nattiv with Liev Schreiber and Lior Ashkenazi, in Hebrew and English with Hebrew subtitles.

Beyond “Golda,” there are more than 200 films to choose from, including 40 newly restored films from the film festival’s 40-year history, including classics such as “Once Upon a Time in America,” Jim Jarmusch’s “Stranger Than Paradise,” “My Own Private Idaho,” “Orlando” and others.

The International Film selection offers a wide range of options, from a Korean single mom in Canada (“Riceboy Sleeps”) and Iranian refugees in Sweden (“Opponent”) to the story of German chancellor Angela Merkel (“Merkel”), tuba robberies in southern California (“The Tuba Thieves”) and young factory workers in China (“Youth [Spring]”).

One film to look for is Sundance hit “A Thousand and One,” the devastatingly powerful portrait of an African American family in New York City in the mid-1990s, from debut director A.V. Rockwell telling the story of Inez, who kidnaps her son from the foster system and sets out to remake herself and her family.

It’s a vivid, stark tale of what was taking place in New York at the time, including the creeping gentrification that took advantage of lower-income families, and drawing on some of Rockwell’s own experiences growing up in New York in the 1990s and 2000s.

Sticking with the  relationship theme is the disturbing power struggle in “Just the Two of Us,” French director’s Valerie Donzelli story of a couple, Blanche and Gregoire, who meet, quickly fall in love and start a new life together, only for Blanche to slowly realize she is in caught in the dangerously possessive web of her husband.

There’s also “Banel & Adama,” a strikingly beautiful film by Senegalese screenwriter Ramata-Toulaye Sy who tells the tale of Banel and Adama, a young couple who want to live slightly apart from their families in their remote village.

Banel is bold and beautiful, Adama is devoted to her but more quiet and introverted, and when he refuses to serve as the village’s leader, this wreaks chaos in their tight-knit society.

Be sure to keep an eye out for the Israeli films participating in the Haggiag Competition, such as “Under the Shadow of the Sun,” about an Ethiopian man released from prison after murdering his wife, hoping to redeem himself and three childhood friends on a high school trip to Holocaust sites in Poland in “Delegation,” along with the documentary films competing in the Diamond Competition.

There’s also an outdoor screening of “Jurassic Park,” with a live performance by the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra, celebrating 30 years of the film on July 17, at Gan Habonim Park, outside the Cinematheque.

For a full schedule of the screenings and events at the Jerusalem Film Festival, as well as for tickets, head to the website.

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