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Around 120 new local and international documentaries will be screened at the 20th anniversary edition of Docaviv – The Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival which will take place in Tel Aviv from May 17 through May 26, 2018. Docaviv is the largest documentary film festival in Israel, and the only one dedicated exclusively to documentary films.

This year 15 Israeli documentaries were selected from 78 submissions for the Israeli Competition. The selection represents superb, rich and diverse filmmaking, and includes: A Sister’s Song by Danae Elon, The Candidate by Tali Shemesh & Asaf Sudry, A Song of Ascension by David Ofek & Gad Aisen, In the Desert: Firing Zone 918 by Avner Faingulernt, The Jewish Underground by Shai Gal, Settler by Iris Zaki, and others. Three Israeli films were selected for the international Depth of Field Competition. These films stretch the boundaries of documentary filmmaking and explore the cinematic language: Salarium by Daniel Mann & Sasha Litvintseva, The Disappeared by Gilad Baram & Adam Kaplan and Standby Painter by Amir Yatziv.

In addition, six films by students from Israel’s leading film schools were selected for Docaviv’s annual Student Film Competition.

Additional films will be screened outside of competition: The King of Börek by Orit Ronel, Daddy, Where are Mom and Grandma? by Nili Tal, The Assassination by Avi Weissblei, and others. To mark the festival’s 20th edition, founder Ilana Tzur has curated a special slate of films from the festival’s early years, including No. 17 by David Ofek, winner of the Israeli Competition from Docaviv’s fifth edition.

The winner of this year’s Israeli Competition will be presented with the Howard Gilman award: NIS 70,000—Israel’s largest prize for documentary filmmaking. Other honors include the Mayor’s Award for Best Debut Film, Honorable Mention, as well as the Editing, Cinematography, Research, and Original Score awards.

Israeli Competition:

A Sister’s Song
Director: Danae Elon
Producers: Danae Elon & Paul Cadieux
Israeli Premiere

Marina, a young Jewish woman from Haifa, sets out to confront her sister, who has become a nun and lives in a monastery in Greece, where she is known as “Sister Jerusalem”. Marina hopes her sister will let her family back into her heart.

A Perfect Housewife
Director: Jane Bibi
Producer: Arik Bernstein
World Premiere

All her life Jane has stood against the conventions of conservative Georgian society. Now a mother-to-be, she returns to her family after years of resentment. Armed with a camera, she tries to understand her mother and herself, and maybe even find it in her heart to forgive, despite the looming shadow of their complex relationships with the men of the family.

You Only Die Twice
Director: Yair Lev
Producers: David Deri & Markus Glaser
By: Yair Lev and David Deri
International Premiere

Who stole the identity of Ernest Bachinsky, the director’s grandfather? This surprising mystery thriller tells the story of a man who became the president of the Jewish community in Austria while living with a family of high-ranking S.S. officials and concealing his true identity. What dark fate was he trying to run from?

In the Desert: Firing Zone 918
A Documentary Diptych
Director: Avner Faingulernt
Producers: Shlomi Elkabetz, Hagar Saad Shalom, Paul Cadieux, Danae Elon, Avner Faingulernt
International Premiere

Two documentary features about Jewish and Arab shepherds who live next to each other in the southern reaches of Mt. Hebron, but never actually meet. As they struggle to adhere to ancient traditions, they find that the desert is deceptive, and politics are even more so. But the struggle that determines their fate is the struggle within.

Yeshurun in 6 Chapters
Director: Amichai Chasson
Producer: Yair Qedar
World Premiere

Yehiel Perlmutter wrecked his own house to be reborn in Tel Aviv as the great outsider poet Avoth Yeshurun, who wrote in a unique mix of Hebrew, Yiddish and Arabic. This is a portrait of a lone revolutionary and silence breaker, suspended between ostracism and recognition.

The Wounded Healer
Director: Yochay Rosenberg
Producer: Ron Ofer
World Premiere

Dan Philipp, a senior clinical criminologist, has spent a career treating sex offenders. His friendship with the most despised of all criminals and his refusal to uphold the boundaries between normality and deviance have driven him away from his professional community and immediate family. At 87, shortly before he “cashes in his chips”, he finally faces the one memory he never dared to face.

Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis
Director: Tal Hake
Producer: Or Davidson
World Premiere

Dudu Tassa & the Kuwaitis, a successful Arab-Israeli ensemble, join legendary band Radiohead to support them on their USA tour. They try to win the hearts of the audience with almost-forgotten Iraqi music, written a century ago by Tassa’s grandfather and his brother. This is a film about the dream, the excitement, the journey and the distance.

Der Nister (The Hidden one)
Director: Nahar Shabtai
Producers: Elad Peleg & Haggai Arad
World Premiere

Der Nister is what my mother, Coleen Shabtai, called the house where she dreamed of raising a happy family. She married my father, the poet Aharon Shabtai, and gave birth to six children. Together they raised them in a house in Jerusalem, surrounded by cypress trees—until one day it was all taken away.

The Candidate
Directors & producers: Tali Shemesh & Asaf Sudry
World Premiere

The film follows Moshe Kahlon and his campaign staff from the 2015 elections to the moment he sat down in the minister’s office. The mystery man of Israeli politics has agreed to let a camera into his headquarters, where the key players of today’s political arena plan their next moves.

The Jewish Underground
Director: Shai Gal
Producers: Lisa Shiloach-Uzrad, Idit Mistriel, Amit Stretiner, Yossi Uzrad, Guy Jacoel
Israeli Premiere

This political detective thriller begins with the Shin Bet’s investigation that led to the arrest of the members of the Jewish Underground, who had planned to blow up the Dome of the Rock. Using unique archive footage and interviews, it tells the story of how the members of the underground made their way to the top of Israel’s political power structure, where they continue to pull the strings even today.

Director & producer: Ohad Milstein
International Premiere

Thousands of years after the Great Flood, four people, floating between heaven and earth, must face nature’s changes.

Family in Transition
Director: Ofir Trainin
Producers: Ofir Trainin & Tal Barda
World Premiere

A Nahariya based family copes with the father’s gender transition. Galit, Amit and their four children believe love conquers all, but just when it seems Amit has finally made it through his gender journey, it is Galit’s personal journey that threatens the relationship.

Director: Iris Zaki
Producers: Iris Zaki & Osnat Saraga
Israeli Premiere

Director Iris Zaki enters the heart of Tekoa, a West-Bank settlement, and sits down to talk to the locals. Though fearful at first of the left-wing invader, settlers from various backgrounds gradually open up to her. Their honest, surprising and sometimes funny conversations offer a fresh take on Israeli reality from both sides of the Green Line.

A Song of Ascension
Directors: David Ofek & Gad Aisen
Production: Producer in Chief: Enav Shenhar, Head of Documentary Department: Ilanit Baumann
By David Ofek, Gad Aisen and Sigal Russak Gissin
World Premiere

The film follows Rinat, Elad and Einav. Elad was left disabled after a botched simple operation. He and his wife Rinat bond with Einav as they enter the surrogacy process. The film follows their emotionally intense journey and dramatic life-choices.

Directors: Uriel Sinai & Danel Elpeleg
Producer: Sol Goodman
World Premiere

The small staff of this wildlife hospital is acutely aware that an infirm animal cannot survive in the wild. But when an animal makes only a partial recovery, hard choices have to be made. Is life worth living at any cost?  

Depth of Field Competition

Standby Painter
Director & Producer: Amir Yatziv
International Premiere

In September, 2000, Poznan Art Museum in Poland gave Robert Z permission to copy the painting “Beach in Pourville” by Claude Monet. Robert Z tells the untold story of what really happened that day at the museum, including the consequences.

The Disappeared
Directors & producers: Gilad Baram & Adam Kaplan
Israeli Premiere

The Disappeared is an experimental documentary unraveling the story of an action-drama feature film produced by the Israeli Army in the year 2000 and censored just a few weeks before its release.

Directors and producers: Daniel Mann & Sasha Litvintseva
Israeli Premiere

Salarium captures the entanglement of economic, military and geological forces at work around the tens of thousands of sinkholes on the Dead Sea shores. The sinkholes in Salarium are the point of convergence for many themes: colonization, ecological disaster, military occupation and economic appropriation, human history and geological timelines.

Student Film Competition:

Hebrew Kisses
Director & producer: Manya Lozovskaya
Sapir Academic College

Newly repatriated from Russia, Manya tries to build a relationship with Erez, a native born Israeli Jew. But to be with him she must first undergo the process of Giyur and convert to Judaism.

The Bride’s Tree
Director & producer: Shadi Habib Allah
Sam Spiegel Film and Television School

Like his father before him, 12-year-old Murhaf is “the Secret-Keeper of the Tree”. He is responsible for a 400-year-old oak. Under the oak, the reality of living in poverty in an occupied land meets a world of fantasy and myth, and Murhaf finds the path to love.

My Father’s Son
Director & Producer: Hillel Rate
Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts

The symbiotic love between father and son is about to be tested by the son’s search for love.

Bus 881
Director: Ron Goldin
Producers: Christopher Albrodt & Cedric Engels

Film Dept. at HaMidrasha – Faculty of the Arts at Beit Berl Academic College

Anyone who wants to cross Dormagen has to ride bus 881, where newly-arrived refugees and native Germans find themselves stuck together in forced intimacy. It is a microcosm that tells the story of Germany’s coping with its recent immigration wave.

A Train to the Horizon
Director & producer: Sharon Shahanny
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Department of Screen-Based Arts

Following a dream about a train shooting out from the yard of her Moroccan grandmother’s block, Sharon arrives at the picturesque town of Ofakim. The train turns out to be the block itself, and in it she finds a surprising, difficult and touching reality.

Director & producer: Maayan Kapach
Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, Department of Photography

Shudia is 95, and she can’t wait to die. When her son Meir reopens an old wound—the kidnapping of her eldest daughter—he is surprised to find not only pain, but also humor and an ongoing intergenerational conflict about a girl and a lost identity.

Selected Israeli films from the festival’s various sections:

In Search of Ladino
Director: David Perlov
Producers: Liat Benhabib & Yael Perlov
Israel 1981, 49 min
A restored version

Ladino encapsulates the sounds of an entire world—complete with culture, hopes and memories. David Perlov brings this world back to life, allowing Israeli Ladino speakers, some of them Holocaust survivors, to tell their stories and sing their songs in the rich language that has always been at the heart of their identities.

No. 17
Directors: David Ofek & Ron Rotem
Producers: Edna & Elinor Kowarsky
Screening category: Rare Gems—Ilana Tzur

Israel 2003, 75 min, Hebrew, English subtitles

On June 2, 2002, a bus was blown up on its way to Tiberias. 17 people were killed. 16 of the bodies were identified, but nobody came for number 17. He was buried some weeks later, a John Doe.

The German
Director: Noga Nezer
Producers: Noga Nezer & Robert Cibis
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

In this documentary thriller, a romance between a young German man and the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor spirals of control in grandma’s old house.

The Assassination
Director & producer: Avi Weissblei
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

85 years ago an influential political leader was murdered on a beach in Tel Aviv. The two shooters were never identified. The film takes us back to those crucial minutes and delves into the unsolved mystery: who killed Haim Arlosoroff.

Covered Up
Director: Rachel Elitzur
Producer: Avigail Sperber
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

Rachel does not want to keep wearing her wig after her divorce, but it is forbidden by the Halakha and frowned upon by her family and the ultra-orthodox Jewish community she lives in. Her attempts to understand the meaning of the wigs worn by ultra-orthodox women after marriage lead her to a journey through personal, family and community life.

Director and producer: Anat Tel
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

Phoenix, 32, was born in the Hebrew Israelite Nation in Dimona. When Phoenix was 3, his father was cast out of the community. They say that was when he got his curse. Now, as he starts a new chapter, he wants to forgive his parents, make his dreams come true and find happiness.

Memory Agents
Directors: Amalia Rosenblum & Ido Rosenblum
Producer: Meital Cohen
Screening category: Art
World Premiere

A decade after the death of Adam Baruch—a controversial cultural figure—his children, Ido and Amalia Rosenblum, try to get to know him. They create a temporary museum that displays more than a thousand items from his vast archive, and invite key figures to guide them through memory’s backstreets.

The King of Börek
Orit Ronell
Producers: Yoram Ivry & David Noy
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

This is the story of the Alkolombris, a family of Bulgarian bakers who immigrated to the newborn state of Israel, introducing the famous Bourekas pastry. A household name in Jaffa, Bourekas Sami has grown into a large franchise under the name Sami & Sons, but when money and respect began to flow, everything started to go wrong.

Director: Shay Levi
Producers: Yoav Roeh & Orit Zamir
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

After years of living in a moshav, I returned to my home town of Rehovot. I traded greenhouses and orchards for an elevator and a stairwell. All of a sudden there are other people living on the other side of my wall—parallel worlds, disturbingly close.

Daddy, Where are Mom and Grandma?
Director & Producer: Nili Tal
Screening category: Panorama
World Premiere

In May 1996, when Itay Bleichman was 11, his father Dr. Amiram Hochberg murdered his mother Shlomit and his grandmother Ida Bleichman, kidnapped him and took him to Switzerland. In an exclusive interview, Itay recounts his story up to the day he was found in Basel.

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