November 16, 2018

The Israel Film Festival gives locals a glimpse of Israel’s soul

The Israel Film Festival (IFF), which annually gives viewers a close-up of the nation’s heartbeat beneath the glaring headlines, has been set for Oct. 23 through Nov. 6.

A red carpet opening-night gala at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills on Oct. 23 will be followed a week later by a Centerpiece Community Event at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills on Oct. 30. Primary venues for the 28th annual festival are the Laemmle theaters in Beverly Hills, North Hollywood and Encino.

Included are feature films, long and short documentaries, as well as short, small-budget and student films, but with a special twist, Meir Fenigstein, the festival’s founding director, told the Journal in a phone call from Israel.

The Israel Academy for Film and Television, similar to its big sister academy in Hollywood, announces a long list of nominees in numerous categories in the run-up to the glitzy awards night.

The nominees will be announced Sept. 21 in Israel and Fenigstein said he hopes to get the rights to show as many of the nominated films as possible at the Los Angeles Israel Film Festival.

Only then will he be able to announce the titles of the selected IFF films.

Traditionally, the IFF is held in the spring of each year in Los Angeles, but this year had to be delayed after Fenigstein underwent surgery in Israel in March. He said he is making an excellent recovery and will be on-hand for the fest’s Los Angeles opening. Fenigstein and his family have returned to their native Israel as their main residence.

Because of the recent Gaza-based fighting, this has been a difficult year for the Israeli film industry, Fenigstein noted.

Currently, there are two trends in the Israeli filmmaking industry, he observed. One indicates less emphasis on movies about the Israel-Palestinian conflict and more interest in personal stories, particularly those centering on the hardships and experiences of the Jewish communities in Israel originating in Arab countries and Iran.

According to Fenigstein, an increasing number of these so-called Mizrahi Jews are pointing out that the struggles of their communities are largely unknown, in contrast to the flow of Holocaust-centered movies, picturing the sufferings of predominantly Ashkenazi Jews.

Customarily, Los Angeles, Miami and New York have annually hosted Israeli film fests. But because of Fenigstein’s surgery and recuperation period, the New York screenings have been eliminated for this year, while the Miami event has been postponed until close to Chanukah.

For updates on the Los Angeles festival events and schedule, visit