Movies in shadow of war

Jerusalem Film Festival announces Israeli lineup for July event

The annual movie celebration will go forward in July, offering ‘comfort, inspiration’ in time of war; international participants yet to be announced

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

The Jerusalem Film Festival always opens with a screening in Sultan's Pool, this year held on July 18, 2024 (Courtesy Tom Weintraub Lok)
The Jerusalem Film Festival always opens with a screening in Sultan's Pool, this year held on July 18, 2024 (Courtesy Tom Weintraub Lok)

The 41st Jerusalem Film Festival will take place July 18-27, opening, as usual, with a screening under the stars at the Sultan’s Pool amphitheater in Jerusalem, under the Old City walls.

“This is unfortunately not the first time that the festival is being held in the shadow of war,” said film festival director Roni Mahadav-Levin, CEO of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the city’s renowned arthouse theater. “The festival recognizes the role of the Cinematheque to provide comfort, inspiration and connection to the local and international community, even in the midst of conflict.”

The festival management on Monday released the names of the several dozen Israeli films competing in the various festival competitions, although it hasn’t announced which film will open the festival on July 18, nor the names of the international feature films being screened during the 10-day event.

The eight films participating in the annual Haggiag competition for feature films include the first feature film of director Avi Nesher’s daughter, Tom Nesher, “Come Closer,” which won first prize in Tribeca film festival category; “Of Dogs and Men,” the first feature film from TV and short film creator Dani Rosenberg; and “Eid” by Yousef Abo Madagem, about a young Bedouin man seeking artistic freedom.

There’s also “Tropicana” by Omer Tobi, about a small-town murder; Maya Kenig’s dystopic dark comedy “The Milky Way”; “Highway 65” by Maya Dreifuss, about a cop in Afula; Phineas Veullet’s “Neither Day Nor Night” about a French Sephardic family living in the heart of Ashkenazi Bnei Brak; and “Youthful Grace” by Yuval Shani, who co-directed the Oscar-nominated movie “Ajami.”

The Diamond Competition for Israeli documentary films will include “Desert Laws” by Ilan Moskovitch and Dan Bronfeld about a Bedouin man who mediates between clans; Yael Melamede’s ode to her Israel Prize-winning mother, “Ada — My Mother, The Architect” and Shauly Melamed’s “Taboo: Amos Guttman,” about film director Amos Guttman who died from AIDS at 38 after pioneering queer films.

From Tom Nesher’s award-winning film ‘Come Closer,’ part of the Haggiag film competition at the 41st Jerusalem Film Festival, opening July 18, 2024 (Courtesy Shay Peleg)

The Cinematheque expects some 70,000 film lovers from Israel and the world to attend the festival, in spite of the challenging period.

“In good times and in difficult times, we believe that cinema should be created and consumed, believing in the power of the art of cinema to strengthen, heal and also provide hope for a different reality through the hundreds of different stories that will be shown on the screens of the halls,” said Mahadav-Levin, adding a wish for the release of all the hostages and an end to the war and violence in the region.

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