Greetings from the Cannes Film Festival, the annual entertainment circus where the arthouse films that screen for audiences inside the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès can sometimes feel more realistic than the carnival of fame, ego, and wealth taking place on the red carpet. This year marks the 69th time this spectacle has been held on the French Riviera, where stars, producers, directors, distributors, and 5000 sleep-deprived press watch the premieres of dozens of films from around the world.
This year, three Israeli films screened in official sections, with numerous others showing in the marketplace, in which distributors select and bid on films. In recent years, films like Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness and Son of Saul, which took home the Grand Prize in 2015 and would later win an Oscar for Foreign Language Film, have debuted at Cannes. With this in mind, here is a short list of films from Israel, or films with Jewish-related themes, from this year’s festival:
One Week and a Day
The first feature film from American-born director Asaph Polonsky follows grieving father Eyal (Shai Avivi) as he copes with the death of his 25-year-old son by getting high with his neighbor (Tomer Kapon). Suprisingly less brooding then the other Israeli flicks at the festival, the comedy was “the only way” to tell such a tragic story. “I love laughing and crying” Polonsky said, “so I tried to put those two together.”
Actually a Palestinian film but listed as Israeli (due to funding) Maha Haj’s first feature follows three generations of a Ramallah family as they cope with their suffocating reality and inherit the inevitable mantle of dissatisfaction. Heart-warming, if a little dragging at points, the film is inspired by Haj’s (also a set designer) personal experience. “Being a Palestinian filmmaker isn’t something that one can take for granted,” Haj said during an interview with the festival. “It is not an easy thing.”
Beyond the Mountains and Hills
Four “good people” navigate a web of twisted, political forces in Eran Kolirin’s third feature film. Uncomfortable to sit through for its harrowingly truthful portrayal of the darkness that can creeps into an Israeli’s life, Beyond the Mountains and Hills received mixed reception at the festival, which Kolirin described to me as an emotionally exhausting “ego trip.” Starring Alon Pdut, Mili Eshet, Shiree Nadav-Naor, Noam Imber and Yoav Rothman, the film follows retired soldier David and his family as they are forced to make decisions in an ugly reality.
French director Lola Doillon’s third feature follows Fanny as she leads a band of orphans through Nazi-occupied Europe towards the Swiss border. Based on the autobiography of Fanny Ben Ami, Fanny’s Journey is Doillon’s attempt to keep the protagonist’s memory alive, as well as those of other child Survivors, who she said are rarely the focus of WWII film. It is set to be released later this year in France. Here’s a preview below (in French):
A stabbing in Jerusalem brings a family together in Miya Hatav’s feature. Set after a terror attack leaves a religious woman’s son unconscious and severely injured, Between Worlds, which stars Maria Zreik, Maya Gasner, and Yoram Toledano, tells a story of secrets unearthed in the wake of trauma.
Other Jewish/Israeli-related films that screened in the Marketplace:
Trezoros, Larry Russo
Anna, Or Sinai (short film)
The Children of Chance, Malik Chibane
Treasures, Drea Hoffman
The Jews, Yvan Atta
Livia Albeck-Ripka is an Australian freelance journalist currently living in Europe, focusing on society and the environment. She writes for publications including Quartz, VICE and Dumbo Feather Magazine and was previously a fellow at Fabrica Research Centre. You can find Livia on twitter here.