The upcoming Israeli film festival is a great way for Canadians to be exposed to Israeli cinema, says Irit Stopper, deputy consul general of Israel.
The Israeli film industry has really matured in recent years and the country’s films are being recognized internationally, Stopper said. “Israel had four feature films in the Toronto International Film Festival, the second-largest film festival in the world.”
One of those films, The Kind Words, will be screened at the second annual Toronto Israeli Film Series (TIFS), which runs Feb. 25 and Feb. 26 at City Playhouse (1000 New Westminster Dr., in Thornhill).
TIFS is being presented by the Israeli Consulate General and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto. The films will be in Hebrew with English subtitles.
The opening film, The Wonderful Kingdom of Papa Alaev, will be shown on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. and will be followed by a Q and A with the co-directing and producing team of Noam Pinchas and Tal Barda. They will also be on hand for the series’ opening reception on Feb. 25 at 7 p.m.
Pinchas, who spoke to The CJN from Netanya, explained that it took four years to film The Wonderful Kingdom of Papa Alaev, a documentary about the musical Alaev family, who were originally from Tajikistan and are famous for performing Jewish music from the region. “They’re Tajikistan’s answer to the Jackson family,” Pinchas joked.
They relocated to Tel Aviv in 1991. Three generations of the family living under one roof are dominated by Allo Alaev, 80, the father and grandfather. “They are controlled and ruled by this overbearing and funny patriarch.”
Alaev, who is referred to as “Papa,” heads this well-known folk music clan, but he is gradually losing his grip as the generations begin to clash, Pinchas explained. “We follow the family in transition from monarchy to democracy.”
He said, the film – the soundtrack is set to the Alaev family’s music – documents the familial discord as the ensemble continues to perform; and while the portrait of Alaev is not flattering, the patriarch ultimately decides that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.”
Pinchas, who stressed that he was also speaking on behalf of Barda, his professional partner, said The Wonderful Kingdom of Papa Alaev, which debuted in 2016 at Toronto’s Hot Docs Festival, has been shown in many film festivals around the world. “The fact that this film resonates with international audiences is a great achievement for us.”
The Kind Words, which was made in 2015, will be shown at 7:30 p.m. on Feb 26. The film is about the quest of three Jewish Israeli siblings. After their mother’s death, they accidentally discover that the man who raised them is not biologically related. He accompanies the trio to France on their search for their biological father.
Stopper also noted that TIFS will have a film geared to families in the lineup. Abulele, made in 2015, screens at 1:30 p.m. on Feb. 26. The film shows how a young boy coping with grief overcomes bullying at his school.
Stopper described Turn Left at The End of The World, made in 2004, as a touching film with many humorous moments. The film, which screens at 5 p.m. on Feb. 26, is set in Israel in the late ’60s. It focuses on the experiences between Jewish immigrants from India who settle in a desert community mainly populated by Moroccan Jews.
TIFS is the brainchild of Tami Berman, an Israeli-born Canadian volunteer who is dedicated to promoting Israeli culture in the GTA. She is the producer of the live Hebrew theatre production company Mifgash, but said she had wanted to bring Israeli films to Canada.
Berman said she approached Stopper about holding an Israeli film festival three years ago when Stopper took up her post at the consulate.
Once the consulate and UJA Federation came on board, Berman, Stopper, and volunteers Tali Dubrofsky, Yael Finegold and Dafna Yona – as well as Lee Mes (UJA), and Liraz Rolnitsky (Hillel and the Miles Nadal JCC) – formed a film selection committee.
Last year TIFS was held at the MNJCC, Berman said. “There was very little publicity, but we almost sold out all the shows.”
For more information about TIFS, visit torontoisraelifilm.com