The Jewish Public Library’s (JPL) 11th annual Israeli Film Festival, which is held at the Dollar Cinema in Décarie Square in Côte-Saint-Luc, Que., opens Jan. 20 with the film Between Worlds.
This 2016 drama by Miya Hatav is about two women – one Jewish, the other Arab – who meet and bond in a hospital, moments after a terrorist attack in Jerusalem.
It’s the first of five screenings of recent Israeli movies – all Montreal premieres, with English subtitles – on consecutive Saturday nights at 8 p.m.
“The festival started in response to a growing demand in the community to see Israeli films that are off the main distribution channels, and to fill a void left by the departure of the Montreal Jewish Film Festival,” said JPL programming director Roxana Brauns.
“The library is able to access these films because we have established contacts with independent Israeli distributors and I personally worked in the film industry in Israel for 13 years, so I have much experience with this.”
The JPL’s Hebrew Cultural Committee, headed by Shoshana Sebag and Shmulik Spiegelman, works closely with Brauns to organize the festival.
Committee members also scout for films when they visit Israel throughout the year.
However, without financial support from the Chaim and Clara Spilberg Endowment Fund, an annual festival on this scale would not be possible, Brauns said.
“It takes a lot of money to pull it off. The films are expensive and the rental of the venue at the Dollar Cinema, not to mention the administrative costs, is great. But we are dedicated to showing these films to an appreciative audience at a very reasonable price, on a big screen, and hope the festival will continue as an annual event for many years to come.”
Every year, the committee views over 30 movies and chooses five to screen at the festival.
“It is a long, tedious and sometimes frustrating process, but extremely rewarding in the end,” she said.
“Our criteria is to show excellent films of substance that have never played in Montreal. These are unique films, shown rarely in mainstream cinema or available on DVD at local video stores.”
Total attendance in previous years has been between 1,000 and 1,200 people, she said.
Between Worlds has autobiographical elements. Director Miya Hatav grew apart from the religious family in which she was raised. She started her career as a dancer and choreographer and later moved into film.
In the movie, an Orthodox Jewish woman rushes to the hospital after her adult son is severely wounded in a stabbing attack. This is the first time she has seen him since he became secular and lost contact with the family.
A beautiful young Palestinian woman comes on the scene, seemingly to attend to her dying father, and the mother is strangely drawn to her. Maria Zreik, who is a Haifa-born Palestinian, plays the young woman.
The 90-Minute War, which will be playing on Jan. 27, is a mockumentary based on the book of the same name by Itay Meirson. The movie tackles the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in an original, witty manner. Among the awards it has received are: the Bob Simon Award, Other Israel Film Festival; Best Actor, Haifa International Film Festival; Best Supporting Actor, Israeli Ophir Awards; and the jury’s Building Bridges Award at the 2017 Atlanta Jewish Film Festival.
Beyond the Mountains and Hills, playing on Feb. 3, was written and directed by Eran Kolirin, director of The Band’s Visit, which garnered worldwide critical acclaim and over 50 awards. This is a morally challenging film about living in the shadow of guilt – a guilt that has no explicit reason – and about good people living a reality that allows them only the roles of victim or executioner.
Saving Neta, on Feb. 10, directed by multi-award winner Nir Bergman (Broken Wings, Intimate Grammar and Yona) tells the stories of four women whose lives change after a brief encounter with a man called Neta. It’s described as a moving portrait of modern parenthood and family relationships.
“I hope that many people will see Shimon Dotan’s documentary. It is a powerful film that could change the image of the Jewish state in the West,” said Brauns.
On the final night, attendees can vote for their favourite film. The ballots will go into a raffle for passes to next year’s Israel Film Festival, worth $65.
For tickets or more information, call 514-345-6416.