A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, directed by and starring Natalie Portman
A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, directed by and starring Natalie Portman

The 4th Israel Film Center Festival which runs from June 2 to 9, 2016 at JCC Manhattan, announced its line-up of feature films, as well as side bar screenings of new television series from acclaimed Israeli writers and producers.

Highlights of this year’s film line-up include the New York premiere of BABA JOON, the winner of the 2015 Ophir Award for Best Film (Israel’s most prominent film award), followed by a conversation with director Yuval Delshad; as well as the New York premiere of DAWN, based on the book by Eli Wiesel; and a screening of A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS, directed by and starring Natalie Portman, based on Amos Oz’s international best-seller autobiography of the same name. The festival also celebrates the life and work of Israel’s beloved director and actress Ronit Elkabetz (Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem, The Band’s Visit) who passed away this April, with a screening of her 2008 film SHIVA (SEVEN DAYS).

In addition to film screenings, this year’s festival showcases a selection of cutting-edge Israeli television programs that are up for international remakes. Hagai Levi, creator of acclaimed, award-winning television series including HBO’s In Treatment and Showtime’s The Affair, will be in attendance to present the first episode from his series The Accursed. The festival also screens two episodes of Fauda, a political thriller that has quickly become one of Israel’s highest-rated television series of all time.

The complete line-up and trailers.

ABULELE – US Premiere – Director Jonathan Geva in Attendance
Dir. Jonathan Geva, 96 min, Narrative
Ancient legends warn children about the Abulele—enormous, furry and sometimes dangerous monsters who are visible only to those who need a friend. In this heartfelt family film, Adam, a young boy grieving from the loss of his brother, discovers an Abulele living in his building. Soon, the two become best friends. But when Adam realizes that it is not the Abulele but humans who are the real monsters, he risks everything to save his friendly giant. When a government Special Forces unit arrives to capture the Abulele, Adam has to put his own past behind him and learn that when you really love someone, you are never alone.

THE ACCURSED (EPISODE 1: PINCHAS SADEH) – US Premiere – Creator Hagai Levi in Attendance
Dir. Hagai Levi, 60 min., Narrative
In this innovative new series, Hagai Levi portrays four Israeli cultural heroes who fluctuated between genius and madness. These artists rebelled with rage and scorn at the bourgeois lifestyle and dominant culture, as they endeavored to create an avant-garde alternative. The series offers a glimpse of the spirit of Israel in the 1970s and 1980s, a moment which seemed to offer one last chance to live an alternative life the introduction of commercial television and the Internet. The Accursed investigates the idea of the total artist, examining examine whether and to what degree we are prepared to pay a steep price for the creative truth burning inside us. Through a combination of documentary footage and reenactments, episode 1 follows the author Pinchas Sadeh.

AFTERTHOUGHT – New York Premiere – Director Elad Keidan in Attendance
Dir. Elad Keidan, 105 min., Narrative
On a sunny day in Haifa, Moshe is a crumbling man walking up the huge stone staircase of Mount Carmel on another work day. Will today mark his collapse? Uri walks down the same mountain, ready to board a ship and leave behind all the things he loves and despises. He is likely to miss his military reserve service call, thus risking jail. Will the two men collide or pass through one another? In this existential comedy, the overbearing mountain with its endless stairs takes control over destinies, forming a unique panorama of this Mediterranean port city.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KO8BZC0Iza8

BABA JOON – New York Premiere – Director Yuval Delshad in Attendance
Dir. Yuval Delshad, 91 min., Narrative (In Persian)
A universal story of intergenerational tension in an Iranian-Israeli immigrant family. Yitzhak (Navid Negahban) is proud to maintain the same turkey farm that his father built when he moved to Israel. Now that Yitzhak’s son Moti (Asher Avrahami) is thirteen, the expectation is that he will learn the family trade and, in his own time, take over the business. But Moti is more interested in reconstructing old cars than in taking over the family business.The rebellious boy is not at all shy about letting his father know that he has no interest in turkeys and, for Yitzhak, this rejection is an insult to all the values he holds most dear. The first Persian-language film shot in Israel, Baba Joon is a wise, sensitive drama that will win your heart.

THE BENTWICH SYNDROME – New York Premiere –Filmmaker/Protagonist Maya Kenig in Attendance
Dir. Gur Bentwich, 70 min, Documentary
From his humble origins in Whitechapel, the eccentric and ambitious 19th century lawyer Herbert Bentwich set out to establish an aristocratic Jewish dynasty. In this brilliantly wry documentary, Bentwich’s great-grandson Gur discovers the truth about his much-maligned and enigmatic family, which, according to its founders, served as God’s gift to Zionism and enlightened Judaism. Along the way, he uncovers a remarkable story, funny, implausible and sometimes tragic, of fervent Zionists, inspired artists, and outrageously determined rebels.

DAWN – New York Premiere – Director Romed Wyder in Attendance
Dir. Romed Wyder, 95 min., Narrative
The story is set in Palestine in 1947, during the British mandate period. The Zionists are fighting for the establishment of a Jewish state. When the British deny entry to the survivors of the concentration camps coming by boat to Palestine, they become “enemy number one” of the Zionist project. A member of the armed Jewish underground is sentenced to death by the British authorities. In return, the resistance kidnap a British officer. The insurgents spend the night together, awaiting the outcome of the negotiation. If the British hang their friend at dawn, one of them will shoot the British officer held as a hostage. Based on the novel by Elie Wiesel, Dawn is a psychological thriller behind closed doors.

ENCIRCLEMENTS – New York Premiere – Lead actress in Attendance
Dir. Lee Gilat, 98 min., Narrative
Lior Ashkenazi (Walk on Water) and Assi Levy (Aviva My Love) star in this touching and complex portrait of a Mizrahi family and the working-class community it inhabits. Thirteen-year-old Aharon Ninio is determined to earn the honor of carrying the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah in order to win his distant father’s approval. When Aharon receives the honor, his status is suddenly elevated because of the belief that he may ask God to grant any request. As he begins to feel burdened by other’s wishes, ancient tensions come to the surface. The symbolic ceremony becomes a life-threatening struggle that leads to unexpected results.

FAUDA (SEASON 1, EP. 1-2) – New York City Premiere – Lead Actor in Attendance
Created by Avi Issacharoff & Lior Raz, 80 min., Narrative
Since the late 1980’s, the IDF has operated special undercover units called “Mista’arvim” who learn to speak perfect Arabic, pray as true Muslims, and above all, assimilate themselves into Palestinian communities. Fauda depicts the lives and families of both these undercover soldiers and the operatives they hunt. Doron, a commander of the undercover Israeli unit operating inside Palestinian territories, and his team, chase down Hamas activist Abu-Ahmed. On the other side of the fence, the tragic life of Abu-Ahmed unfolds, and we witness the reasons for their escalating hatred towards Israel. A groundbreaking political thriller, Fauda has captivated Israeli and Palestinian audiences alike to become one of Israel’s highest-rated television series of all time.

FIRE BIRDS – New York Premiere
Dir. Amir Wolf, 105 min., Narrative
Nominated for 10 Israeli Academy Awards, Amir Wolf’s electrifying directorial debut is an intelligent and pacey thriller boasting screen-stealing performances from Israeli stars Gila Almagor and Mali Levi. After the body of an eighty-year-old man is found in a river with a number tattooed along his forearm, Ammon, a police detective and second-generation Holocaust survivor, reluctantly accepts the case and struggles to bring it to a quick close. The investigation leads him to a tattoo parlor and a club of Holocaust survivors with a zest for life, who seek solace in romantic recollections of their pre-war world. As the plot rewinds through the victim’s final months, a story of deadly dalliances, desire, loneliness and rejection emerges, connecting two characters of different generations, both tied to the Holocaust and spurned by society.

GUAVAS – NY Premiere – Lead Actor in attendance
Dir. Kobi Machat, 80 min., Narrative
A variety of peculiar characters, puppets, and humans share a building in a small town: Pertchik, who is the building’s super and our storyteller, Giovanni the hairdresser, Shlita the dog, and a mysterious tenant whom no one has ever seen. A new family arrives including a daughter, Billi, a mischievous little girl who enjoys exploring all the magical corners of the building and particularly the guava tree that has a hammock and a tree house. When the mayor’s assistant decides to chop down the tree, Billi must fight for her friend. Billi leads the tenants of the building and the whole city council in a social protest.

IMPORTED (SEASON 1, EP. 1-2) – US Premiere – Lead actor in Attendance
Created by Assaf Geffen & David Lifshitz, 46 min., Narrative
When Adir Meyuhas is spotted by a talent scout for Chelsea Football Club in London, he thinks his dreams of becoming an international soccer star have finally come true. The fame, the game and the glitzy London lifestyle await him- and he is beside himself with excitement. However, when he lands in the UK with his pushy father, idle brother and diva girlfriend in tow, he is surprised to find things are somewhat different from what he had imagined. Imported tells the laugh-out-loud story of what happens as Adir struggles to fit in and navigate life in a fast-paced city far-removed from home, while repeatedly being held back by the people who supposedly love him most.

THE KIND WORDS – New York Premiere – Director Shemi Zarhin in Attendance
Dir. Shemi Zarhin, 118 min., Narrative
In the wake of their mother’s death, Dorona (Rotem Zissman-Cohen) and brothers Netanel (Roy Assaf ) and Shai (Assaf Ben-Shimon) stumble across some unexpected intrigue regarding her past — namely the revelation that her husband, the man who raised them, is not their biological father. The ensuing search for the mysterious Muslim man who sired them takes them from Israel to France. The film truly belongs to Dorona, a young woman longing for a love so idealized, so notional, that she can’t see the full heart of the man in front of her: her own husband. Briskly paced and threaded throughout with wry humor, Zarhin’s film asks us to confront our own ideas around identity and walking the emotional tightrope between lies and truth.

THE MAN IN THE WALL – NY Premiere – Lead Actress in Attendance
Dir. Evgeny Ruman, 92 min., Narrative
One night, one apartment and one mystery. Rami takes his dog on a walk and disappears. His wife, Shir, wakes up in the middle of the night, clueless as to his whereabouts. Friends, relatives, neighbors and police come round and, with each visit, more marital secrets are revealed. Could one of them hold the key to the mystery? Set entirely during one rainy night, The Man in the Wall is a tense, methodically paced psychological drama with a personal touch.

SABENA HIJACKING – MY VERSION – New York Premiere – Producer in Attendance
Dir. Rani Saar, 98 min., Docudrama
On May 8, 1972, four “Black September” terrorists hijacked Sabena Flight 571 from Brussels to Tel Aviv, marking the beginning of thirty nerve-wracking hours of human and political drama. SABENA finally shares the untold story of what exactly took place on the flight. It presents a cinematic reenactment of these events, weaving together previously undiscovered recordings and exclusive interviews with the three revered Israeli political leaders who were in charge of the rescue: Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, and Shimon Peres. SABENA is a captivating, fast-paced film full of suspense, posing fundamental political and historical questions that have shaped the Israel of today.

SHIVA (SEVEN DAYS)
Dir. Ronit + Shlomi Elkabetz, 105 min, Narrative
It is 1991, in the midst of the first Gulf War, and Israel is under daily missile attacks. In the Ohayon family, tragedy has hit in more personal circumstances as beloved Maurice, one of nine brothers and sisters, has suddenly died. The family gathers for the traditional seven days of mourning (shiva) in which they may not leave the house. The intensity of shiva catalyzes more than just emotional support and communal grief. Jealousy, gossip, long-buried rivalries, and financial problems come to the fore, as each of the siblings is faced with their own frustrated ambitions.

A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS
Dir. Natalie Portman, 98 min., Narrative
Based on Amos Oz’s international best-seller, A TALE OF LOVE AND DARKNESS is the story of Oz’s youth at the end of the British Mandate for Palestine and the early years of the State of Israel. The film details young Amos’ relationship with his mother, Fania (Natalie Portman), who struggles with a marriage of unfulfilled promises and integration in a foreign land. As Fania battles her inner demons and longs for a better world for her son, Amos traces his birth as a writer, looking at what happens when the stories we tell become the stories we live.

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