Tel Aviv’s Docaviv film festival tackles tough issues with style

Docaviv, Tel Aviv’s annual international documentary film festival, kicked off on May 3 with a moonlit ceremony at the newly renovated seafront promenade. The event was followed by a beachfront screening of the festival opener, “Never Sorry,” the Sundance decorated portrait of Chinese artist and dissident Ai Weiwei, who spent almost three months last year under house arrest at an unknown location.

The festival, which runs for 10 days, screens a wide array of documentaries catering to all tastes, with topics ranging from coping with Alzheimer’s to African music and urban crime in the United States.  With a nod to the region, the organizers have also included the story of Palestinian woman sneaking into Israel to work, as well as an examination of the plight of gay Palestinians and a look at the social protests that spread across Israel last summer.

“The Invisible Men”, which tells the stories of Louie, Fares and Abdu, three young Palestinian men driven from their homes for being homosexual, could prove to be one of the highlights of the festival. Touching, engaging and even a little tear-jerking, the documentary by Israeli director Yariv Mozer played Sunday night to a packed yet (unusually for Israel) silent house. It was followed by a delightful and unexpected post-screening Skype chat with Abdu, whose story arc culminates in his departure from the Middle East to the snowy unnamed country in Europe where he has been granted asylum.

Equally moving were the shots of Louie, eight years a resident of Tel Aviv, saying goodbye to his favorite places in Israel and the Palestinian territories as he contemplated his own departure from the land he clearly loves.

Three days in, and if the rest of the choices are as smart as this one, it will truly be a festival worth checking out.