Short student film is only Israeli entry in this year’s Cannes Film Festival

Young director Amit Vaknin fears anti-Israel protests after Tel Aviv film school enters her first film, ‘It’s Not Time for Pop,’ into prestigious competition

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

From 'It's Not Time for Pop,' Amit Vaknin's student film being screened at the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2024 (Courtesy)
From 'It's Not Time for Pop,' Amit Vaknin's student film being screened at the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2024 (Courtesy)

When Tel Aviv University film student Amit Vaknin flies to Cannes, France, on Sunday to screen her film in the 77th edition of the renowned film festival that opened May 14, she’ll be the only Israeli participating in the event this year.

“I’m totally overwhelmed,” said Vaknin, 28.

It’s a complicated period for Israelis in academia, arts and culture, as anti-Israel protests are loud and numerous worldwide, despite bright spots like Eurovision contestant Eden Golan’s fifth-place success amid the demonstrations and hostility at the weekend’s song festival in Malmo, Sweden.

Vaknin’s film, “It’s Not Time for Pop,” is the only Israeli film being screened at the 76th edition of Cannes, the festival at which Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid won the Jury Prize for “Ahed’s Knee” in 2021, and where a handful of Israeli films are usually screened each year.

Vaknin’s 14-minute film follows a young woman who doesn’t want to mark the annual Memorial Day commemoration of her father, killed in an Israeli war, and is more interested in trying to snag a hard-to-find Tel Aviv apartment.

“I didn’t write a film about grief,” says Vaknin, who describes film as the art form that helps her explain what’s happening in the world. “It’s a film about a young woman who wants to deal with love but inherits death.”


It also had nothing to do with the mourning and bereavement following the Hamas attack of October 7, but rather was inspired by last year’s anti-judicial overhaul protests that rocked the country and Tel Aviv in particular, Vaknin’s adopted hometown.

“It was such a shakeup that we experienced as an Israeli society,” said Vaknin. “I didn’t realize how much I love this place and how much concern I have for it.”

She filmed the movie well before October 7 and thinks a lot about how it can be interpreted differently now.

Tel Aviv University film student Amit Vaknin will be the only Israeli filmmaker participating in the 76th Cannes Film Festival on May 20, 2024 (Courtesy)

Currently a third-year student at the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, Vaknin made the short film as part of her second-year studies, and it was her first project.

She recalled her initial fears in putting together the project, figuring out the script and production, the crew and actors, all on a tiny budget.

Once it was completed, however, Vaknin said she walked around Tel Aviv as if she had fallen in love.

“I was so euphoric, and as a student, I felt like it was fine if it wasn’t any good,” said Vaknin.

She was already thinking about her next film when she was notified by her school this past January that they were sending it to the festival for consideration in the student competition.

By March, Vaknin was informed by Cannes that “It’s Not Time for Pop” had been selected for the La Cinef student film competition.

With “It’s Not Time for Pop” being screened on May 20, Vaknin is anxious about what kind of reception she’ll receive at Cannes, where protests and political statements have often interrupted the focus on cinema.

Vaknin has carefully read all the fine print about the festival, which states there is no room for racism or negative commentary about race, nationality or religion.

“That’s what it says, and I hope everyone reads it,” said Vaknin, who is traveling with other members of her film crew.

During a pre-festival press conference, Cannes artistic director Thierry Frémaux told reporters that “in Cannes, the politics should be on the screen.”

Nervous both about how her film will be received and how people will behave toward her, Vaknin insists she ultimately has faith in humanism and the good in people. She wants to believe, she says, “that I can come back and say I have hope.”

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