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Israel Film Festival set to kick off in New York

The 23rd Israel Film Festival will kick off in New York on October 29th at the Ziegfeld Theatre and run through November 13th at the Clearview’s 62nd & Broadway Cinema. Meir Fenigstein, Founder and Executive Director, announced today the full lineup of films for this year’s Festival which showcases more than 30 new feature films, provocative documentaries, ground-breaking TV dramas, and innovative student films celebrating Israeli life and culture. List of films to follow. The Israel Film Festival will present over 10 U.S. Premieres, 5 East Coast Premieres and 7 NY Premieres.

The 23rd Israel Film Festival’s Opening Night Awards presentation will take place at the Ziegfeld Theatre on October 29th, 2008. Oscar nominated and Emmy award winning actor, director, producer and writer, Danny DeVito (Taxi, Get Shorty, War of the Roses, Erin Brockovich) will be the recipient of the Lifetime Visionary Award presented by Michael Douglas. Oscar winning producer and director, Irwin Winkler (Rocky, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, The Right Stuff) will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award presented by publisher Mort Zuckerman. And, Oscar winning director, writer, producer, Edward Zwick (Glory, Blood Diamond) will receive the Israel Film Festival Award for Outstanding Achievement in Film presented by Liev Schreiber.

The Festival’s Opening Night Film will follow the awards ceremony with the US premiere of Reshef Levy’s Lost Islands. The biggest Box Office success in Israel in 2008, this autobiographic drama is the winner of 4 Israeli Academy Film Awards 2008, including Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor. The film centers on the large and unique Levi family. Mr. Levi stresses the importance of fulfilling your dreams, while his wife preaches absolute family loyalty. When twin brothers, Erez and Ofer, fall in love with the same girl, they must choose between family loyalty and love. A reception with all guests and filmmakers from Israel including Lost Islands director, Reshef Levy, and Lost Islands actor, Michael Moshonov, will follow at the Flatotel.

A portion of the proceeds from the 23rd IFF Opening Night Gala will provide scholarships to exceptional Israeli film students from six film schools in Israel including: The Sam Spiegel Film & T.V. School Jerusalem, Sapir Academic College Shderot, Ma'ale School of Television Film & Arts, Tel Aviv University- Film and Television Dept., Hamidrasha Biat – Berl Collage and Tel Hai Communication Center for Cinema.

The Co-Chairs of the 2008 Israel Film Festival are Amy Pascal, Co-Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment and Chairman, Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group, and Arnon Milchan, Owner/Founder, Regency Enterprises.

Among the Special Guests coming in from Israel and around the world to participate in the 23rd Israel Film Festival galas, films, panels and programs are: Riki Shelach / Producer (ALTALENA); Assaf Bernstein / Director (THE DEBT); Marco Carmel / Director (FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS); Lynn Roth / Director (THE LITTLE TRAITOR); Avi Nesher / Director (THE SECRETS); Igal Burstyn / Director, Shuki Friedman/ Producer (OUT OF THE BLUE); Amos Kollek / Director, Michael Tapuach / Producer (RESTLESS); Reshef Levy / Director, Michael Moshonov / Actor (LOST ISLANDS); Ran Tal / Director (CHILDREN OF THE SUN); Yael Katzir / Director (PRAYING IN HER OWN VOICE); Oded Lotan / Director (THE QUEST FOR THE MISSING PIECE); Boaz Shahak / Director (YOU NEVER KNOW); Barak Heymann / Director (DANCING ALFONSO); Tomer Heymann / Director (OUT OF FOCUS); Barak & Tomer Heymann / Directors, Scriptwriters, Producers (BRIDGE OVER THE WADI); Tomer Heymann / Director, Scriptwriter (IT KINDA SCARES ME); Ori Ravid / Director (ELI & BEN); Eliezer (Laizy) Shapiro / Director (SRUGIM).

“Whatever the situation has been in Israel or America, the IsraFest Foundation has—thanks to continued support of our sponsors and audiences—put on a festival every year, showing people the richness and humanity of Israeli life and culture, and the talent of our filmmakers. We hope the New York audience can once again join us in recognizing the great success of the Israeli film industry around the world,” says Meir Fenigstein, Founder and Executive Director of the Israel Film Festival in the US.

Other film highlights include the Homage to Barak & Tomer Heymann on Friday, November 7th with a retrospective of films and a Q & A with the directors. Founded by Tomer Heymann, one of the leading documentary directors in Israel, the almost 10 year old Heymann Brothers Films Company specializes in long term documentary projects with a social and political orientation. The four films that will be screened are: Bridge Over the Wadi, Dancing Alfonso, Out of Focus, and It Kinda Scares Me (which won the Academy Award in Israel in addition to several other awards).

There will also be the opportunity to join Israeli Filmmakers for panel discussions and Q&As about the success of Israeli cinema worldwide. The Feature Filmmaker Panel will take place, Saturday, November 1 following the screening of Father’s Footsteps at 7:00PM and the Documentary Filmmaker Panel will take place, Sunday, November 2 following the screenings of Homeland and Children of the Sun at 4:15PM.

The Israel Film Festival will present the Panavision Audience Choice Awards at the Closing Night Ceremony. This year, the winning filmmakers will receive a $60,000 Panavision 35mm Camera Package for one month of filming their next project which is to be shot in Israel.

With films ranging from cinéma vérité and comedies to thought-provoking, powerful dramas and documentaries, the Festival will highlight Israel’s culturally rich landscape overflowing with filmmakers who have produced remarkable movies.

FESTIVAL NARRATIVE FEATURES:

ALTALENA (US Premiere)Director: Eli Cohen- A dramatized version of the tragedy of the ship “Altalena,” in which 960 new immigrants, most of them Holocausts survivors, were caught in the middle of a conflict that most could not even believe possible. The film deals with the uncompromising struggle between David Ben Gurion and Menachem Begin, over the distribution of weapons, the disbandment of the paramilitary organizations, and the character of opposition in a democratic state. Had it not been for this rivalry, perhaps the tragic end of the episode could have been avoided.
77 minutes

THE DEBT (US Premiere) Director: Assaf Bernstein-When an article appears in a small central European’s local newspaper saying that “THE SURGON OF TREBLINCA,” a Nazi monster who captured and held prisoner by Rachel Brener and 2 other young Mossad agents in 1965, and had been thought to have committed suicide before trial, is actually alive and willing to admit all of his crimes, these 3 agents find themselves in a threatening situation. Now 30 years later, the 60-something ex- agents must cover their asses, and eliminate him before the truth of what really happened and how the “Surgeon” escaped comes out. 93 minutes.

ELI & BEN (US Premiere) Director: Ori Ravid- Eli is 12-years-old and his world is turned upside down when his father, the City Architect of Herzelya, is charged with taking bribes. The father is taken into custody right before Eli's eyes and the news makes its way into the newspaper and the school ground alike. Eli is convinced that his father is innocent. He intends to draw on the full reserves of his innocence and mischief to see to it that his father is released. But the path would not be easy. Eli will have to face injustice, corruption and pretence, among both adults and children. He will have to shape his own principles and stick to them. In the process he will re-discover his father and taste the bitter sting of first love.
89 minutes.

FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS (US Premiere)Director: Marco Carmel- In the early 70’s, Felix, Mireille and their children move from Israel to the working-class Parisian neighborhood of Belleville where Felix meets Serve, a local gang leader who leads Felix down the path of organized crime and eventually into the position of gang leader after Serve’s arrest. The shame pushes Mireille to tell the children that their father has gone back to Israel to join the army. Tensions cause Michael, Felix’s son to follow in her father’s violent footsteps and it is up to Mireille to hold her family together and protect them from themselves. 90 minutes.

THE GALILEE ESKIMOS (US Premiere) Director: Jonathan Paz- The evening prior to the arrival of the bailiffs at a bankrupted Kibbutz, the great exodus begins and all the people gather their possessions and abandon their homes. The contractor hired by the bank arrives at the kibbutz astonished to find these abandoned old-timers who after struggling, later begin to organize and rebuild the kibbutz. A film about the latent power revealed when senior citizens are abandoned, betrayed, and left to determine their own fate. 99 minutes.

THE LITTLE TRAITOR (NY Premiere) Director: Lynn Roth- Palestine 1947. Proffy Liebowitz, a militant yet sensitive twelve year old wants nothing more than for the occupying British to get the hell out of his land. Proffy and his two friends are always plotting ways to terrorize the British until one evening, while he’s out after curfew, Proffy is seized by Sargeant Dunlop, a British officer. Instead of arresting him, he escorts him back home but what ensues in the weeks to come is a friendship between these two foes. 83 minutes.

LOST ISLANDS (US Premiere)Director: Reshef Levy- The biggest Box Office success in Israel in 2008, the autobiographic drama centers around the large and unique Levi family. Mr. Levi stresses the importance of fulfilling your dreams, while his wife preaches absolute family loyalty. When twin brothers, Erez and Ofer, fall in love with the same girl, they must choose between family loyalty and love. 103 minutes

OUT OF THE BLUE (US Premiere)Director: Igal Burstyn- Shabtia and Herzel drive through the streets of Tel Aviv buying and selling used furniture and trash. In Shabtai’s dreams he makes love to a seductive red-haired women, whom he discovers really exists after seeing her picture in a face-cream advertisement. Although he sends out to find her, it is Herzel who first wins her heart, even though he loves Batya. A comedy about abortive loves and the friendship that survives them. 92 minutes

RESTLESS (US Premiere)Director: Amos Kollek- Moshe was a moderately successful poet in Israel who never got the recognition he felt he deserved. After his son was born, he left for New York, never looking back. 20 years later his life has hit rock bottom. Tzach is a handsome young solider in an elite unit of the Israeli army who always lives on the edge. After his mother’s death, Tzach finds his father’s address and decides to contact him. A film about father and son, and the elusive quest for redemption. 100 minutes.

THE SECRETS (NY Premiere) Director: Avi Nesher- The Secrets presents the complexities of a religious lifestyle within the context of youth, rebellion and desire. Naomi postpones marriage to the prodigy of her ultra orthodox rabbi father to study at a Jewish seminary for women in the ancient Kabalistic seat of Safed following her mother’s death. Her quest for individuality takes a defiant turn when she befriends a free-spirited but headstrong fellow student. Their unlikely alliance is jeopardized by a mysterious older woman Anouk, a terminally ill tortured soul shunned by the community for her crime of passion. Together, they attempt to purge her sins through a series of secret rituals. 120 minutes.

STRANGERS (NY Premiere) Director: Erez Tadmor & Guy Netiv- Described as the story of a globe-trotting, Israeli Romeo who meets a Palestinian Juliet, Strangers puts love to the test in time of war. Eyal, an Israeli kibbutznik, and Rana, an expat Palestinian living in Paris, visit Berlin for the 2006 World Cup finals where they’re forced to share an apartment after accidentally swapping backpacks. Over three intensive days their friendship turns to love as they’re drawn out of the stark reality of their lives and into a passionate affair as the second Israel-Lebanon war plays out. When its time to go home, they must decide where to go to from there. 85 minutes.

FESTIVAL FEATURE DOCUMENTARIES

CHILDREN OF THE SUN (NY Premiere) Director: Ran Tal-The much talked-about winner of the Best Documentary Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival, Children of the Sun is an unconventional history of the kibbutz movement that inspired so many of the original settlers in the Holy Land. Director Ran Tal, who himself grew up on a kibbutz, turns to other members of his generation, using their words and home movies to reveal a thoroughly fascinating, conflicted, and authentic portrait of a disappearing world. 70 minutes.

BEN GURION REMEMBERS (East Coast Premiere) Director: Simon Hasera October 6, 1973 saw the outbreak of the Yom Kippur War, what followed the very next day was the release of ‘Ben-Gurion Remembers’. Eclipsed by the war, this documentary has remained forgotten for 35 years. The original poster for the film exclaimed: “…How a 5000 year-old promise from God became a 25 year old nation.” As Israel celebrates its 60th year of existence, the world has the opportunity to once again watch the history of a nation as it is told by Ben-Gurion, surrounded by his family and colleagues including Golda Meir and Moshe Dayan.

BRIDGE OVER THE WADI (NY Premiere) Director: Tomer Heymann & Barak Heymann- For the first time in Israel, a group of Arab and Jewish parents decide to establish a conjoint bi-national, bi-lingual school inside an Arab village. The film follows the school's first year and portrays through the personal stories of its characters, how complicated and fragile is the attempt to create an environment of co-existence against the backdrop of the complicated reality surrounding it.

DANCING ALFONSO (NY Premiere) Director: Barak Heymann- Alfonso is the lead dancer in a flamenco troupe that rehearses in a Tel Aviv suburb. The average age of the group-members is over 75. After the death of his wife, Alfonso begins to obsessively court Sima, a dancer with the troupe. His children displeased, and unwilling to accept the fact that their father might be interested in another woman. "Dancing Alfonso" provides its viewers with a novel and unfamiliar portrait of the inner world of older people, and with a fresh look at our endless, but ever hopeful, search for someone to love.

OUT OF FOCUS (US Premiere) Director: Tomer Heymann- For the first time, Ohad Naharin (Bat Sheva Dance Company) agrees for his creative work process to be observed and documented. The film follows Naharin's work with the dancers of the modern dance company Cedar Lake at their studio in New York. During the shooting we are exposed to Naharin's complex character and his ideological objection to the documentation of his work. The film is the result of the unique encounter between cinema and dance.

IT KINDA SCARES ME Director: Tomer Heymann- This is the tale of Tomer, the director, and his social and personal odyssey from the typical Tel Aviv scene of the Coffee-house he manages, to the small town of Azur, where he works as a Youth Group counselor. Over a period of two years with the group, Tomer records the finer moments and those less fine, all of which seem beautiful in his able hands. Events that express the sense of estrangement, the “other” Israel, and violence, all take on a different meaning in the course of staging an original play at the local theatre. And so as the kids open up to Tomer, their confusion and chaotic inner world is revealed, and questions of their social and sexual identities are raised. As they open up, so must he.

PRAYING IN HER OWN VOICE (East Coast Premiere) Director: Yael Katzir- Jewish tradition and modern life clash in this spell binding portrait of the famed Women of the Wall movement as it does battle with the ultra-orthodox establishment in Israel over the right to wear prayer shawls and read aloud from the Torah at the Western Wall. The struggle of these women is seen as a test case for the deprived status of women in Israeli public life, religious coercion, and the hunger for equality as they are followed for two years during religious services, hearings at the Israeli Supreme court and the controversial aftermath of the rulings, and violent confrontations with their opponents. 60 minutes.

THE QUEST FOR THE MISSING PIECE (East Coast Premiere) Director: Oded Lotan- A young Jewish gay man living in Tel Aviv with his German partner pieces together the story of his own bris while reflecting on the complex role his sexuality and time abroad has played in shaping his Israeli identity. Presented as a gently humorous fairy tale bridging the gap between tradition and modernity, the film sheds light on feelings toward the male-circumcision ritual, fear of exclusion and the need to belong. 52 minutes.

THE TRUE STORY OF PALESTINE (East Coast Premiere) Director: Joel Silberg- The True Story Of Palestine features the work of numerous Israeli-entertainment legends, with excerpts from hundreds of hours of film shot by Nathan Axelrod, who documents the building of a Jewish state in Palestine. Haim Topol read’s Haim Hefer’s narration. 80 minutes.

WAITING FOR GODIK (East Coast Premiere) Director: Ari Davidovich- Nominated for the 2007 Jerusalem Film Festival’s Best Documentary award, this intimate look at the rise and fall of legendary producer and impresario Giora Godik examines the Israeli King of Musicals’ quest to bring the American dream to Tel Aviv. That vision ended when Godik unexpectedly fled to Germany on the eve of his last premiere and ended up selling hotdogs for a living at the central railway station in Frankfurt. The film glimpses into the gap between glittering lights and a life in the shadows, bringing to life the story of a man who believed that life was a musical. 60 minutes.

YOU NEVER KNOW Director: Boaz Shahak - Shlomo Carlebach was a brilliant young torah scholar sent by the Lubavitcher rebbe to deliver scripture to hippies in the San Francisco Bay Area. When his love for flower power crossed the boundaries of Jewish law, the Orthodox establishment shunned him. Carlebach, who once boasted about having composed 4,000 original melodies, died penniless but his music still fills concert halls and his followers live in nearly every Jewish community.

FESTIVAL TV DRAMAS

HOMELAND (US Premiere) Director: Dani Rosenberg - Lolek, a young Holocaust survivor who has been given a new identity, arrives in Israel and is left in the middle of the desert during a war in 1948. He is assigned to an isolated post under a brutal commander and the burning sun. A stranger to the language and afflicted by homesickness and the heat, he sets out to look for some shade. (2007, 40 minutes).

SRUGIM (US Premiere) Director: Eliezer (Laizy) Shapiro - A new social class of well-educated singles in their thirties is rising up in Jerusalem. They haven’t found their place in the existing religious framework and what was supposed to be a temporary pre-marriage existence has become rather permanent. With a religious upbringing that did not prepare them for single adulthood, these young adults work to create normal lives within the constraints of religion and tradition while seeking warmth and love.

FESTIVAL HONOREES

Danny DeVito , 2008 IFF Lifetime Visionary Award Honoree, is one of the most versatile talents of our time. He has won numerous awards for his work as an actor, writer, director and producer. His significant achievements in television and motion pictures include Taxi, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, Romancing the Stone, Jewel of the Nile, Ruthless People, Throw Momma from the Train, Twins, The War of the Roses, Batman Returns, Hoffa, Get Shorty, Matilda, L.A. Confidential, Pulp Fiction, Garden State, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia on FX and the Academy Award nominated Erin Brockovich. He is involved with many charitable organizations including OneVoice Movement which is working toward a peaceful solution between Israelis and Palestinians.

Irwin Winkler, 2008 IFF Lifetime Achievement Award Honoree, is an Academy award winning producer and director. Mr. Irwin Winkler has produced more than 50 acclaimed films which have received 12 Academy Awards, 45 nominations, including four Best Picture nominations for Goodfellas, The Right Stuff, Raging Bull, and the Oscar winner Rocky as well as directing De-Lovely, Life as A House, and Guilty By Suspicion among others. Mr. Winkler is the only producer to have three films listed on the American Film Institute’s list of the “top 100 films” of all time.

Mr. Edward Zwick, 2008 Outstanding Achievement In Film Award Honoree, is an award-winning writer-director-producer, has produced Traffic and the Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love, and has directed acclaimed films such as Blood Diamond, Glory, Legends of the Fall, and The Last Samurai, to name a few. His most recent project, which he also directed and co-wrote, Defiance, (opening in the US December 12th), starring Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber, tells the incredible true story of three Jewish brothers during World War II who band together as unlikely heroes to become resistance fighters and save over 1,200 Jews from the Nazis.

Over the past 23 years, the Israel Film Festival has brought hundreds of films to the United States and has introduced Israel's finest film talents to American audiences. Prior honorees of the festival include Kirk Douglas, Rob Reiner, Carl Reiner, Jeffrey Berg, Menahem Golan, Sasha Baron Cohen, Amy Pascal, Michael Barker, Tom Bernard, Bernie Brillstein, Milos Forman, Michael Fuchs, Amos Gitai, Adam Greenberg, Gale Anne Hurd, Norman Jewison, Larry King, David Linde, Sidney Lumet, Penny Marshall, Mike Medavoy, Arnon Milchen, Tom Rothman, James Schamus, Elie Wiesel and Laura Ziskin. Presenters include Dustin Hoffman, Jeff Goldblum, Adam Sandler Rachel Weisz, Kelly Preston, Bette Midler, Garry Marshall, Ashley Judd, Cameron Diaz, Isabella Rosellini, Gil Cates, Arthur Hiller and Peter Chernin, to name a few.

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