Subtle yet dramatic, Israeli films are fast gaining recognition on the international festival circuit. Next month's "Israeli Film Festival 2011" depicts the rich cultural heritage of this multicultural and dynamic nation with a diverse programme of drama, comedy, thriller, action and documentary.
Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Consulate General of Israel, the festival will showcase nine titles for an inspiring cinematic tour. The films will be shown from January 11 to 23, 2011 at the Lecture Halls of Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Science Museum, and the Hong Kong Film Archive Cinema.
The films include an espionage thriller "The Debt", a bittersweet comedy "Five Hours from Paris", and the touching "Eli & Ben" and "Out of Sight". "Spring 1941" focuses on a war-time love triangle, "The Assassin Next Door" stars new Bond femme fatale Olga Kurylenko and "Maya, to Touch the Soul" takes a look at the pursuit of art and love. There are also two documentaries - "Ida's Dance Club" and "Ladino – 500 Years Young".
The opening film, "The Debt" (2007), has recently undergone an acclaimed English language makeover by director John Madden. The plot follows three young Mossad agents who receive a hero's welcome for killing a notorious Nazi doctor, nicknamed the"Surgeon of Birkenau". In fact, their mission to apprehend the surgeon has gone wrong, but they keep the secret among themselves. Forty years later, Rachel, now a successful writer receives news that the surgeon is still alive and she has to finish off "the job".
"Maya, to Touch the Soul" (2010) features coffee shop waitress Maya, who aspires to become an actress and captures the attention of a playwright for casting in his new play. As Maya immerses herself in her role, she discovers an unknown side of herself, and also becomes romantically involved with the playwright. Maya pulls out all stops for a performance that proves to be a knockout for everyone in the audience, if not her lover.
The light-hearted "Five Hours from Paris" (2009) touches on the universal feeling of "wanting to be somewhere else". Middle-aged taxi driver Yigal seems to have little going on his life – he's divorced but frequently visits his ex-wife to help take care of his son. He wants to go to Paris but is petrified by the prospect of the five-hour flight. His life seems to be taking a turn for the better when he meets his son's choir teacher, Lina, and the two loners develop a mutual affection for each other. But Lina is married and waiting for her husband to take her to Canada. The film won Best Film at the Haifa International Film Festival 2009.
Perhaps a boy can tell right from wrong better than adults. In "Eli & Ben" (2009), Eli's father has been arrested on bribery charges and the 12-year-old Eli finds that he is also under surveillance by the authorities. While believing his father is innocent, he faces a moral dilemma when his father plans to run away. The film won the Grand Prix (Golden Swan) at the Moscow International Festival for Children and Youth 2009.
Who can see the darkest depths of human nature? Ya'ara in "Out of Sight" (2006) can see it despite her blindness. Ya'ara rushes back to Israel for her best friend and cousin Talia's funeral. While musing on memories of growing up with Talia, she discovers the painful secrets of Talia's past - the reasons behind her suicide. A touching story that depicts friendship, sacrifice and courage, the film won Best Director and Best Cinematographer at the Israeli Film Academy 2005.
Also on female friendship, "The Assassin Next Door" (2009) featuring the new Bond girl, Olga Kurylenko, is full of explosive action. Gaila is a Russian assassin controlled by a crime ring. All she wants is to be reunited with her daughter back home. Her new neighbour Eleanor, a supermarket clerk, longs to break free from her abusive husband. They form an unlikely kinship through their common desire to be free from the tyranny of men. When Gaila refuses to kill her last target, she decides to revolt against her tormentor. The film was in competition for Israel's Ophir Awards 2010.
In "Spring 1941" (2008), renowned cellist Clara takes refuge from the Nazis at a farm near Auschwitz with her daughter and husband Artur. Farm owner Emelia asks Artur to pretend to be her husband (who has gone off to war) while Clara and the child hide in attic. Affection starts to develop between the two but Clara can only peek from her hiding place. Is it love or the pathos of war that has fuelled this desperate love triangle?
Also not to be missed are two the documentaries. "Ida's Dance Club" (2009) is a gratifying reminder that a passion for going beyond one's boundaries is not exclusively reserved for the young, but is for all those who are young at heart. Retirees become recharged with a zest for life when they decide to participate in dance competition.
Ladino was the language of the Spanish Jews in the Middle Ages. The documentary "Ladino – 500 Years Young" (2005) follows singer Yasmin Levy on a concert tour through Spain, where she treads her ancestor’s footsteps and rediscovers her identity as a Ladino Jew.
English subtitles are available for all films. "The Debt", "Five Hours from Paris", "Eli & Ben", "The Assassin Next Door" and "Out of Sight" also have Chinese subtitles.
Tickets priced at $40 are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens aged 60 and above, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. Credit card bookings can be made on 2111 5999, or on the Internet at www.urbtix.hk.
Programme details can be obtained in the programme leaflet available at all LCSD performing venues. For enquiries, please call 2734 2900 or browse the website: www.lcsd.gov.hk/fp.
Ends/Tuesday, December 14, 2010
A film still from "The Debt" (2007).
A film still from "Maya, to Touch the Soul" (2010).
A film still from "Five Hours from Paris" (2009).
A film still from "Eli & Ben" (2009).
A film still from "Out of Sight" (2006).
A film still from "The Assassin Next Door" (2009).
A film still from "Spring 1941" (2008).
A film still from "Ida's Dance Club" (2009).
A film still from "Ladino - 500 Years Young" (2005).