The Best of Israeli Cinema Comes to Toronto

Published: October 5th 2010
in Culture » Movies

Avi Nesher's The Matchmaker.
Pic: Israel Film Festival

Get out the popcorn but add the humous.  The third annual Israel Film Festival is coming to the Sheppard Grande theatre, at Yonge and Sheppard, from Sunday, October 24 to Thursday, October 28.  Seven knockout films that will stay with you long after – the best of modern Israeli cinema.


The festival opens with Precious Life, which debuted at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival to wide acclaim.


For over 20 years, Shlomi Eldar, a journalist for Israel’s Channel 10, covered the Gaza strip.  He had covered the story of a baby boy born in Gaza, who was missing a normal immune system and decided to expand it into a feature length documentary.


The baby, Muhammed, was brought to Sheba Medical Centre. Dr. Raz Somech who worked to save the baby’s life is the hero of the film.


To survive, the baby needed a bone marrow transplant that cost $50,000 – an impossible sum of money for the parents. Eldar sought to raise money by broadcasting the story. Within five minutes, an anonymous donor gave the entire amount.


One of the most astonishing scenes is the heated exchange between Eldar and the mother, Raida.  Despite the help she’s getting from Israeli doctors, she expresses fierce anti-Israel diatribes. She even says she would not be upset if the baby grew up to be a “martyr” to the cause.


“It’s a marvellous movie,” says the festival’s founder and director, Eran Bester, who calls it remarkably balanced.   “It reflects the complex situation here in Israel.  North Americans often see the world like a Western movie – the good guys and the bad guys, and the good guys win.  In real life it’s far more complicated.”


Dr. Somech, who did post-graduate training at Sick Children’s Hospital in Toronto, will be speaking to the audience.


Gilad Goldschmidt, director of A Green Chariot, will also come to speak.  In the film, 22-year old Sasha wants to be an Israeli more than anything else. He disconnects himself from his Russian past, including his father and his friends. But on the eve of his wedding to an Israeli girl, Sasha receives a package that changes his life. He must re-examine his life choices and confront his religious/spiritual world, sending him on a journey at the end of which he is forced to make new choices about his identity.


Wasserman - The Rain Manwill be shown along with A Green Chariot.  A long drought descends on Israel.  Even the most sceptical farmers are praying for rain. All except 73 year old Wasserman. He swore never to pray to G-d again, blaming Him for the deaths of his entire family in the Holocaust.  The conflict escalates between him and his religious neighbours, leading to a surprising end.


A Film Unfinished.  Israeli filmmaker Yael Hersonski does a brilliant reassembly of a 1942 Nazi propaganda film on life in the Warsaw Ghetto, interviewing survivors and adding voice-over commentaries from the clandestine diaries of victims who died in the ghetto. The Globe and Mail, who gave the documentary four stars, called it “harrowing, edifying and triumphant.”


A Matter of Size.  Sharon Maymon and Erez Tadmor, directors.  Described as a kind of antithesis to television reality shows, the characters are fat and they love to eat. They are charming but have self-esteem issues because of their looks.   Tired of dieting, they decide to quit their weight loss workshop and make their size an asset. With the hope of winning a trip to Japan, they start a sumo wrestling group. During their quest for victory, they find love, set themselves free from the chains of shame and learn to accept themselves the way they are.


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