24th ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL – Dec 5th, Thru Dec 13th, 2009

24th Israel Film Festival

CELEBRATING THE INTERNATIONAL SUCCESS OF ISRAELI CINEMA

December 5, Thru December 13, 2009 At SVA Theatre (23rd & 8th)

Opening Night Honors Presented To

ELLIOTT GOULD – 2009 IFF Lifetime Achievement Award

PAUL SCHRADER – 2009 IFF Achievement in Film Award

DON KRIM – 2009 IFF Visionary Award

Israeli Box Office SmashA MATTER OF SIZE: Opening Night Film Nominated For 14 Ophir Awards (Israeli Academy)

(November 12, 2009, NYC) —The 24th Israel Film Festival, the largest showcase of Israeli films in the United States will open on Saturday, December 5, 2009 and continue through December 13 at the SVA Theater (333 W. 23rd St.).

Opening night will find celebrated actor Elliott Gould on hand to receive the 2009 IFF Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of his tremendous achievements and body of work.  This Academy Award® Nominee has over 200 film and television credits to his name, and is easily recognizable the world over.  He recently returned from Israel and is a strong supporter of Israeli Cinema and its filmmakers.  The Israel Film Festival is proud to honor him.  Also that evening, acclaimed Writer/Director Paul Schrader will be honored with the 2009 IFF Achievement in Cinema Award.  Paul Schrader (whose most recent release, Adam Resurrected, will receive a special presentation at the 2009 IFF), began his career as a critic, and quickly segued into writing then directing.  His films as a writer and/or director include Taxi Driver, Blue Collar, Raging Bull, Cat People, Mishima: A Life In Four Chapters, The Mosquito Coast, City Hall, American Gigolo, Patty Hearst, Auto Focus, Affliction and The Walker among more than 30 well known and successful titles.  Also receiving an IFF honor that night will be Donald Krim, President of Kino International, a leading independent distribution company. Krim will receive the 2009 IFF Visionary Award for his leadership and vision as a critical force to the showcasing of Israeli cinema in the United States.  For twenty years Kino has been at the forefront of presenting the best of new Israeli cinema starting with Renen Schorr’s evocative Late Summer Blues and including Amos Gitai’s Kadosh and Kippur, Cannes Camera d’Or winner Or, Joseph Cedar’s Academy Award® nominated Beaufort and this year’s submission from Israel to the Academy Awards®, and Cannes Camera d’Or Special Mention, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s Ajami. The Israel Film Festival is honored to recognize Donald Krim.

The Opening Night film will be the highly praised Israeli release, A MATTER OF SIZE, a touching, light-hearted comedy about a group of four ‘very’ overweight friends in the Israeli city of Ramle who decide to start a sumo wrestling club and escape from the dictatorship of diets espoused by their weight-loss group decide to pursue a sport where their size is an asset.  In the process they all experience a ‘coming out’ of a different kind – learning to accept themselves both in life and love.  A MATTER OF SIZE, directed by Sharon Maymon & Erez Tadmor, was nominated for 14 Israeli Academy “Ofir” awards in 2009.  Erez Tadmor will be in town to attend the Opening Night of the 2009 Israel Film Festival.

The 24th Israel Film Festival will present over 28 Israeli features, documentaries, and award-winning student shorts, ranging from cinéma vérité and comedies to thought-provoking, powerful dramas and documentaries.  More than 15 Israeli filmmakers are expected to attend and participate in the event.

The annual Panavision Audience Choice Award for Best Israeli Feature Film will be presented at the IFF’s Closing Night presentation.  The award carries a state-of-the-art Panavision package worth over $60,000 for the director and producer to use toward their next film shot in Israel.

Under the expert supervision of Founder/Executive Director Meir Fenigstein, The Israel Film Festival is presented by IsraFest Foundation, Inc., in association with the Consulate General of Israel in New York. The Festival has been responsible for introducing Israeli life and culture to American audiences through the powerful medium of film, providing a comprehensive intercultural exchange and has brought hundreds of Israeli filmmakers to the United States to share their art. Through the years, more than 900,000 filmgoers across the country have experienced the best of Israeli cinema by viewing more than 800 feature films, documentaries, television dramas, short films and student shorts.

The Festival is the only film festival that will visit three American cities – Los Angeles, New York and Miami.

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FEATURE FILMS

ADAM RESURRECTED (Israel / 2008 – Special Presentation), Dir: Paul Schrader, starring Jeff Goldblum and Aylet Zurer.  Former Berlin magician Adam Stein is an enthralling, enigmatic patient at an Israeli rehabilitation outpost for Holocaust survivors. Stein veers from brilliance to eroticism, horror and madness, with flashbacks to the demoralization he endured under Commandant Klein in the Stellring death camp. Stein appears to have everyone stymied and overawed, but an unusual new patient seems to have the magnetic power to break him free of the grip of his relentless torment. Q&A with Producer: Ehud Bleiberg

BRURIAH (Israel / 2008 / East Coast Premiere), Dir: Avraham Kushnir.  Bruriah struggles with a childhood trauma: a life of excommunication which was forced on her following the publication of her father’s book. Bruriah goes in search of the only surviving copy of the book. Her husband sees her quest as a threat to the way of life that he has created for his family. But Bruriah is unwilling to give up, and the search for the book becomes a crusade during which she faces the compromises she has made in her life, her desires, and her limitations.  Special Guest: Avraham Kushnir.

FOR MY FATHER (Israel / 2008 / East Coast Premiere), Dir: Dror Zahavi.  Terek, a young Palestinian on a suicide mission in Tel Aviv, is given a second chance when the fuse on his explosive vest fails to detonate. Forced to spend the weekend in Tel Aviv awaiting its repair, Terek befriends several Israelis, including the beautiful Keren, who has cut off contact with her Orthodox family and upbringing. With nothing to lose, Terek and Keren open up to one another, and an unlikely love blooms between two isolated and damaged individuals, raised to be enemies.

JAFFA (Israel / 2009), Dir: Keren Yedaya, brings forth the dramatic story of Mali, who lives with her family in Jaffa, and works with her brother and father at the family owned car repair shop. Mali falls in love with Tauffik, a mechanic in the garage. Despite underlying racism and jealousy that surrounds them, their love affair grows. When Mali finds out she is pregnant, the couple decides to run away and get married abroad. On the morning of the flight, a tragic event reshapes this couple’s future.

KIROT (Israel / 2009 / US Premiere), Dir: Danny Lerner.  Galia (Olga Kurylenko) longs to escape her life as a Tel Aviv sex worker and reunite with the young daughter she left behind in Ukraine. With the promise of cash and the return of her passport, she is enlisted to commit murders for Tel Aviv heavies Ronnie and Michel. Across the hall lives Elinor (Ninet Tayeb), a grocery-store clerk and battered wife who dreams of fleeing her abusive husband. The two forge a friendship when Elinor tries to teach Galia to curse in Hebrew.  For a few precious hours, the two women forget their exploiters.  Special Guest: Ehud Bleiberg, Producer

MRS. MOSCOWITZ & THE CATS (Israel / 2009 / US Premiere), Dir: Jorge Gurvich.  When Yolanda Moscowitz (Rita Zohar), a retired teacher, wakes up in a hospital geriatric ward, she is convinced there must be some mistake. She wants to go home immediately. But the titanium plate in her hip confines her to a wheelchair and to a lengthy convalescence. Nonetheless, Yolanda discovers a new life: she develops a close relationship with Allegra, the solitary woman with whom she shares a room; she confronts Rosie, the head nurse; and when she meets Shaul (Moni Moshonov), a former soccer player, emotions surface that she thought had vanished from her life for good. Like a young woman in love, she does anything to captivate the charming Shaul. When the time comes for her to return home, it’s the last thing she wants to do. However, she has no choice and is forced to return to her life of loneliness, with its TV game shows and the cats that wail under her window all night long. Just as she’s about to renounce her possessions for the friendship of a caregiver, there’s a knock at her door….

SEVEN DAYS (Israel / 2008), Dir: Ronit Elkabetz & Shlomi Elkabetz.  The Ohayon’s, seven brothers and two sisters, loose their brother Moris. They are forced to spend seven days of mourning together, unable to leave the house, each one holding a grudge against the others. The film describes the breakdown of the expanded family for personal independence, through the story of each of them, as well as their story as a group. Special Guest: Shlomi Elkabetz.

SEVEN MINUTES IN HEAVEN (Israel / 2008 / New York Premiere), Dir: Omri Givon.  For a year, Galia has tended to her own injuries as well as her boyfriend’s. The event that left him in a coma and her back badly scarred is a blur. Getting on the Jerusalem bus… the explosion… waking up in the hospital… most of Galia’s recollections come from the reports of others. But when he finally passes away, never having awoken, Galia realizes that in order to move forward, she must reconstruct this mysterious past and, in particular, that one horrific day.  Special Guest: Omri Givon.

ZRUBAVEL (Israel / 2008 / New York Premiere), Dir: Shmuel Beru.  Itzhak’s family emigrated from Ethiopia to Israel and now makes their home in a poor neighborhood, full of crime and drugs.  Gita, Itzhak’s grandfather, successfully protects and unites the whole family, but a surprising chain of events undermines Gita’s control over his family. The conflict is ignited by the clash of generations, specifically between the Ethiopian customs cherished by Gita and his wife and the younger generation’s desire to assimilate with Israeli culture. Special Guest: Shmuel Beru.

DOCUMENTARY

ACHZIV (Israel / 2009), Dir: Etty Wieseltier.  Documents the unique story of Eli Avivi, President of “Achziv Land,” from the time of the War of Independence when Eli appropriated a deserted Arab village called A’Ziv. He declared the village as the Independent State of Achziv and up until the present day has remained the colorful and independent ruler of his land despite the authority’s perpetual attempts to close him down.

A HISTORY OF ISRAELI CINEMA (Israel/France / 2009 / US Premiere), Dir: Raphael Nadjari, investigates more than 70 years of Israeli cinema. The journey begins with the Zionist propaganda of the 30s, 40s, and 50s, establishing Jewish life in Palestine on film. The 60s introduced the fiction era, influenced by European and American cinema. In the late 60s and 70s, Israeli cinema tried to form its unique and local identity, when directors, born and raised in Israel, appeared onstage. During the 80s, Israeli cinema became an important means of political expression. In the 90s and the 2000s, we start hearing a diversity of voices, representing the different cultures forming Israeli society, and the filmmakers begin searching for individual poetic expression. The film includes interviews with filmmakers and researchers from different eras. A must see for those wanting a comprehensive knowledge of Israeli Cinema! (Presented in two parts).

A LEGEND IN THE DUNES (Israel/France / 2009 / East Coast Premiere), Dir: Ya’akov Gross.  In honor of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Tel Aviv, Ya’akov Gross presents a new documentary that follows the development of the building of the new city across from the ancient city of Yaffo. Its founders, builders and bohemia who settled there installed a new spirit in the awakening Land of Israel, in times when it was hard to believe the Zionist dream would be fulfilled.  Special Guest: Ya’akov Gross.

THE GREEN DUMPSTER MYSTERY (Israel / 2008 / East Coast Premiere), Dir: Tal Haim Yoffe.  Traveling on his scooter through south Tel Aviv, film-maker Tal Haim Yoffe noticed an old photograph and some documents inside a green dumpster. This was the beginning of an investigation that slowly unwound a tragic family history beginning in Lodz, and transverses a Siberian Gulag, a Samarkand sugar plant, a kibbutz in Frankfurt, a deserted Arab building in Jaffa, and an absentee IDF soldier somewhere in the sands of the Sinai Peninsula. Just an anonymous family, but a typical Israeli one.  Special Guest: Tal Haim Yoffe.

THE MYSTERY OF ARIS SAN (Israel / 2009 / East Coast Premiere), Dir: Dani Dotan & Dalia Mevorach.  A journey into the mysterious life of Aris San, the Greek singer who became a megastar in Israel, close friend of generals and politicians, until rumors spread that he was a spy. Aris left for New York and opened a night club where Hollywood stars, politicians, and Mafiosos mingled. His friends included Anthony Quinn, Telly Savalas, Harry Belafonte, as well as the Gallo crime family. His meteoric rise ended with a drug addiction, jail and a mysterious disappearance in Budapest.

QUEEN KHANTARISHA (Israel / 2009 / US Premiere), Dir: Israela Shaer-Meoded, presents two Israeli-Yemenite women writers in their sixties: A songwriter and lyricist of love, who also stands behind some of the hottest hits that resonate in Yemeni clubs and weddings, and a Jerusalem-born poet and writer, whose writing, touching on demons, madness, rape, and rebellion, has garnered her community’s denunciation. The film explores the personal costs of straddling the ambitions of creative expression and the restraints of conservative communities requiring subservience.

THE SHAKSHUKASYSTEM (Israel / 2009 / East Coast Premiere), Dir: Ilan Aboody.  The film, nominated for a documentary ‘Ofir’ Award, describes Aboody and journalist Miki Rosenthal’s efforts toward acquiring a deep understanding of the complex connection between capital and government in Israel. They story focuses on one of the strongest families in the Israeli economy – the Ofer family. While making the film, they discover that there are taboo topics and the journalist’s investigation becomes a personal quest for him, as he understands that making the film would also take a very heavy personal toll. Special Guest: Miki Rozental.

TALE OF NICOLAI (Israel / 2008 / NY Premiere), Dir: David Ofek.  The collapse of Communism puts Nicolai, like thousands of other Romanians, out of work. He leaves his family to earn money in Israel. After three years as a “guest worker,” tired of giving most of his pay to his employer, Nicolai becomes an “illegal.” Caught and sent to prison, his life takes an abrupt turn. Noted documentarian David Ofek (The Hebrew Lesson, 2007 Festival) uses subtle irony to raise questions about who belongs in an increasingly diverse Israel.

VOICE OF JERUSALEM (Israel / 2009 / US Premiere), Dir: Ofer Naim.  Those who remember Jerusalem in its splendor have called it the city of gold. It is a city known for its glorious past but bleak future. Thirty six years after the film I Am A Jerusalemite, Yehoram Gaon sets off to find the Jerusalem he left behind. What happened to “Jerusalem of Gold”? Which of the three religions should have the right to control Jerusalem? Maybe this all stems from the “Jerusalem Syndrome” that causes one to lose touch with reality. Have the leaders of Israel and Jerusalem suffered from this syndrome as well? This film attempts to answer many of these questions, talking to a number of the city’s residents and through the many songs sung longingly about this city, over time.

THE WORST COMPANY IN THE WORLD (Israel / 2009 / US Premiere), Dir: Regev Contes.  Three divorced middle aged men work together in a small, failing insurance agency, located in the rented apartment of the manager. Although they are highly intelligent, have a sense of humor, and well educated, they have absolutely no idea about running a business, and their company is continually on the verge of bankruptcy. The film documents the attempts of the manager’s son, (Contes), to join this motley crew at the onset of the recession, and save his father’s collapsing firm. Special Guest: Regev Contes,

All films are in Hebrew with English subtitles unless otherwise noted.  Films and schedule subject to change.

Sponsors of the 24th Israel Film Festival include: Government of Israel, El-Al, Clear Channel, HBO, The Hollywood Reporter, Carmel6, Nu Image, Millennium Films, The Leroy and Shoshana Schecter Family Foundation, New York Post, JDate, Triangle, Israel Lottery Council for the Arts, Israel Ministry of Tourism, Israel Film Fund, and other corporations, organizations and individuals.

Tickets for the 24th Israel Film Festival are General Admission: $14; Opening Night Gala (including reception, Awards presentation & film) $100; Seniors, Students, Children & Weekday Matinees (before 6pm) $11; All Access Single Pass (good for any festival screening except Opening Night screening and reception) $250 – limited availability.  Tickets on sale after November 23rd.  Passes and Sponsorhips on sale now.  For all program, ticket and/or sponsorship information regarding the 24th Israel Film Festival, December 5, 2009 through December 13 at the SVA Theater (333 W. 23rd St.), please visit www.israelfilmfestival.com or call 1-877-966-5566.

Besides honoring Elliott Gould, Paul Schrader and Don Krim of Kino (who, as you know has released a slew of award-winning Israeli films), this year’s edition is a great showcase for the Israeli Academy Awards, with 6 out of 10 features either winning or being nominated for “Ophirs”. Plus there are 10 documentaries. Here are some highlights:

– A MATTER OF SIZE (Sharon Maymon & Erez Tadmor), the Opening Night film on Israeli sumo wrestlers (!) was at Tribeca this year and was nominated for 14 Ophirs (winning 3, including Best Actress). The Weinsteins bought the remake rights and it has a 2010 release through Menemsha Films.

– JAFFA (Keren Yedaya, director of OR, MY TREASURE) premiered at a Cannes Special Screening this year, and lead Dana Ivgy (also in OR) whose performance as a Jewish woman falling in love with an Arab mechanic, garnered her a nomination for Best Actress at the Israeli Academy Awards

– THE SEVEN DAYS (Ronit & Shlomi Elkabetz), the 2nd feature directed by actress Ronit Elkabetz (LATE MARRIAGE, THE BAND’S VISIT) alongside her brother was nominated for 13 Israeli Academy Awards in 08, and won Best Israeli Feature at the Jerusalem Film Festival as well as Best Actress for Hana Azoulay-Hasfari.

– FOR MY FATHER (Dror Zahavi) is the story of a Palestinian suicide bomber befriending an Orthodox Jew, was nominated for 7 Israeli Academy Awards and was a selection at the Hamptons. Released by Film Movement.

Doc highlights:

– A HISTORY OF ISRAELI CINEMA (Raphael Nadjari) the definitive history (so far) in two parts (totaling 207 mins)

– THE GREEN DUMPSTER MYSTERY (Tal Haim Yoffe) was at IDFA and Palm Springs follows the director unraveling the story of an anonymous family which starts in Lodz Poland and ends in Jaffa.

– TALE OF NIKOLAI & THE LAW OF RETURN (David Ofek) by noted documentarian Ofek ( THE HEBREW LESSON) questions  Israeli identity as it follows a Romanian-born Jew who comes to Israel to earn money as a guest worker.

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