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Inspiring Israeli movies focus on humanitarian concerns

Inspiring Israeli movies focusing on individual life, public events and love will be shown next month at the “Israeli Film Festival 2006”.

Jointly presented by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department and the Consulate General of Israel, feature movies and short films that intrigue both Israeli and international viewers will be screened from May 9 to 26 at the Theatre of Hong Kong City Hall, the Lecture Halls of Hong Kong Space Museum and Hong Kong Science Museum, and the Cinema of Hong Kong Film Archive.

From its early production with documentaries and drama imbued with political relevance or religious disputes, Israeli cinema thrived in the 1990s with the introduction of genres that were popular with Israeli citizens, including arthouse films with humanitarian concerns.

The picks for the festival are productions from recent years. Pioneers Assi Dayan, Dan Wolman and renowned documentary filmmaker Amos Gitai focus on human dignity and the triumph of the spirit.

The witty opening film, “Year Zero” (2004), received great critical acclaim. Similar to “Magnolia” and “Short Cuts”, the film employs a multitude of characters and an intricate plot of story lines to depict the lives, predicaments and distress of people through contemporary social events that have a common influence. Rock musician Dan Toren’s scores add life to the film.

“Mr Baum” (1997) is a black comedy. Stunned by the news that he has only one and a half hours to live, Mr Baum re-arranges his meetings, calls his workaholic wife and son and meets his daughter, but all they think his impending death is a just a joke. Director Assi Dayan vividly portrays the alienation of city people. Mr Baum’s dream of his own museum and friends’ recapitulation of his life is so absurd that audiences are reminded of Akira Kurosawa’s “Ikiru”.

Adapted from the autobiography of Gila Almagor, “The Summer of Aviya” (1988) portrays how a heartbroken mother refuses to give up hope and bravely brings up her daughter in the new Israel. The film won the Silver Bear award for outstanding artistic contribution at the Berlin Film Festival 1989.

Amos Gitai’s “Kadosh” (1999) featured a couple from an ultra-Orthodox community. The wife loves her husband deeply, yet she is forced into divorce because the couple is childless after 10 years. Her sister is compelled by her parents to marry a man she does not love and finally commits adultery.

To rescue her mother from prostitution, 18-year-old Or works hard to make ends meet. The mother tries a normal life of working as a maid yet she cannot forget her former life and continues to sell her body at night. In the face of pressure, Or steps in for her mother. With long shots and a realistic style, Keren Yedaya’s “Or” (2004) inherits the alienation of European neo-realism in depicting the misery of the poor in Israel. The film won Caméra d’Or, Cannes Film Festival 2004.

Accountant Ben is a weird guy. He will knock on the door whenever he enters or exits a house or even opens a wardrobe. Dan Wolman’s “Ben’s Biography” (2003) is an extraordinary exploration of child psychology, depicting how a lonely and helpless childhood can affect grown-up life.

An extraordinary romantic comedy, “Wisdom of the Pretzel” (2002) is humorous yet thought-provoking. A 30-year-old womaniser is going to marry a rich girl and become CEO of a big enterprise. He encounters a strange girl and finally finds real love. The film voices the aspirations of the new generation of Israel, which is no longer burdened with the heavy history of the race.

The four short films are “Eicha” (2001) and “Sabbath Entertainment” (2003) focusing on youngsters from traditional families and “Halel” (2001) and “Newspapers & Flowers” (2001) on the theme of love.

All films in the “Israeli Film Festival 2006” are in Hebrew with English subtitles. “Year Zero” and “Kadosh” also have Chinese subtitles.

Tickets priced at $40 are available at all URBTIX outlets. Half-price concessionary tickets are available for senior citizens, people with disabilities, full-time students and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance recipients. A 10% discount will be offered for each purchase of 6-10 tickets and 20% discount for 11 tickets or more.

For programme information, please call 2734 2900 or visit . Reservations can be made by phone on 2734 9009 or on the Internet at .

Ends/Monday, April 24, 2006
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