Forget-everything films

Jerusalem Film Festival to open with comic ‘Thelma’

The annual summer film event announces international offerings, including Josh Margolin’s feel-good flick about his wily grandmother

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

June Squibb, left and Fred Hechinger  star in 'Thelma,' opening the 41st Jerusalem Film Festival on July 18, 2024 (Credit David Bolen)
June Squibb, left and Fred Hechinger star in 'Thelma,' opening the 41st Jerusalem Film Festival on July 18, 2024 (Credit David Bolen)

When the 41st Jerusalem Film Festival kicks off on July 18, it will open with a screening of a feel-good film by a first-time director, whose 103-year-old grandmother inspired the film.

It’s the right idea for this year’s event, taking place in the shadow of the ongoing war, the deep sorrow for the bereaved and worry over the hostages.

“Thelma,” starring the 94-year-old June Squibb, and written, directed and edited by improv comedian Josh Margolin, aims to be a salve for the soul, at least for the 138-minute duration.

“Thelma” premiered at the Sundance Film Festival,.

With an ongoing theme that imitates “Mission: Impossible,” poking gentle fun at the slow gait of the octogenarian heroine, “Thelma” tells the story of a grandmother who gets duped by a phone scammer pretending to be her grandson.

Hilarity ensues as Thelma sets out across Los Angeles to reclaim what was taken from her.

Other international offerings for the July event include contenders and winners from major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlinale and Sundance.

Keep an eye out for “All We Imagine as Light,” an Indian drama about love and friendship taking place in Mumbai, written and directed by Payal Kapadia.

Israeli director Guy Nattiv’s “Tatami,” about one night with female Iranian athletes, will finally make its way to Israel.

There’s also Cannes winner “Black Dog,” a 2024 Chinese film about a former stunt motorcyclist who returns home and strikes up an unlikely friendship with an unwanted canine left over from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.

“Small Things Like This” is a Tim Mielants film that opened the Berlinale and takes viewers back to 1985 Ireland, where a small town coal merchant played by Cillian Murphy discovers something about the Catholic Church that forces him to confront his past and his town’s silence.

Check out David Cronenberg’s latest, “The Shrouds,” the director’s typically arthouse horror film starring Diane Kruger, Vincent Cassel, and Guy Pearce. The film premiered at Cannes and tells the story of a grieving widower who builds a device to connect with the dead inside a burial shroud.

The festival will host actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, who will receive a letter of recognition and will take part in a discussion following the screening of Noam Baumbach’s 2007 film, “Margot at the Wedding,” in which she starred.

The other Jason Leigh films being screened at the festival are Quentin Tarantino’s “The Hateful Eight,” for which she received an Oscar nomination, as well as her 1995 film “Georgia,” and “eXistenZ,” directed by David Cronenberg in 1999 with Jason Leigh, Jude Law, Ian Holm and Willem Dafoe.

For more information about tickets and the schedule for the festival, go to the Jerusalem Film Festival website.

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