By Pamela Price
Consel General of Israel David Siegel played a prominent role in the screening of five films at the 23rd annual Palm Springs International Film Festival. As an international sponsor, Consul Siegel made an equally fine impression with the filmgoers, industry guests and press at a reception held at the Renaissance Hotel the afternoon after the Festival’s gala.
This year’s Israeli and Jewish-interest film selections were as exciting as always.
“Dolphin Boy,” screened in Arabic with English subtitles, was directed by Dani Menkin and Yonatan Nir. The film delves into the healing power of nature and the experimental power of dolphin therapy surrounding a brutal ttack on a teenager from an Arab village in Northern Israel. “Off-White Lies,” directed by Maya Kenig, is a clever comic drama wrapped around a father-daughter relationship and coinciding with the Second Lebanon War. Gur Bentvich received the Best Actor Award for his performance in the film at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
“Footnote,” another offering, is the winner of nine Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Film, Best Actor and Best Director, as well as Best Screenplay at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Joseph Cedar and reminiscent of the Coen brothers’ “A Serious Man,” “Footnote” delves into a spat between two Talmudic scholars who happen to be father and son.
“My Australia,” directed by Ami Drozd, reveals how two young brothers, the sons of a Holocaust survivor, cope with the realization of their Jewish origins.
“Restoration,” directed by Yossi Madmony, was nominated for two Israeli Academy awards in addition to winning Best Film in the Karlovy Vary and Jerusalem Film festivals and Best Screenplay at the Sundance Film Festival. This is more of a visionary film which reflects “a heartening new trend in Israeli cinema that transcends political issues and cultural bounderies to tell universal stories of fate and family.”
And speaking of new trends, for the first time in the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s history, 11 new films were showcased from the Middle East, reflecting the “dramatic upsurge of film production and the concurrent emergence of new filmmaking talents across this region.” Alissa Simon, senior programmer for the festival, introduced this new selection of films, which brought a fascinating dimension to this year’s festival.
Add to these films the other Jewish-interest films: “David,” winner of Best Film in the Arab Film Festival; “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story;” “Hotel Lux;” In Darkness;” “Man Without a Cell Phone;” “My Best Enemy;” “Sonny Boy;” “Wunderkinder;” and “My Father Baryshnikov.” You can see why this year’s festival was a winner for the films and fans. As word spread, many of these films were sold out in advance.
Winners of the 2012 Audience Awards were announced at Spencer’s Restaurant with Festival Chairman Harold Matzner presiding. This year, 200 films were screened over 13 days, representing more than 70 countries. Screened at the Best of the Fest was “Follow Me: The Yoni Netanyahu Story,” directed by Jonathan Gruber and Ari Daniel Pinchot. It was the only Jewish interest film listed among the Audience Choice favorites.