November 20, 2019

Israeli movie wins top prize at Palm Springs film fest

The Israeli movie “Fill the Void” has been named best foreign-language film, beating out entries from 41 other countries, at the Palm Springs International Film Festival in Southern California.

The International Federation of Film Critics' (FIPRESCI) prize for the Israeli entry was announced Sunday at the conclusion of the 11-day festival, which ran Jan. 3-14.

Though not as prestigious as the Academy Awards, or as well known as the Cannes or Venice film festivals, the Palm Springs event is considered the primary U.S. venue for the screening of foreign movies.

As a Los Angeles Times critic noted, “Nowhere else in America will you see such a diverse range of quality foreign movies across most genres, all in one place.”

This year, the festival screened 182 films, including 42 of the 71 foreign-language movies submitted in the Oscar competition.

“Fill the Void,” written and directed by Rama Burshtein, examines profound issues of faith and conduct within the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) community in Tel Aviv, as viewed from an insider’s perspective.

The festival jury praised the movie for “portraying a culture usually depicted in stereotypical terms, with subtlety, sympathy and sensuality, and employing a style that is intimate, but not intrusive.”

“Fill the Void” has won seven Ophir awards, Israel’s equivalent of the Oscar, and received high praise at the Toronto, Venice, New York and Sao Paulo film fests.

Hadas Yaron, who portrays an 18-year old girl torn by the choice of a future husband she loves, and another preferred by her family, won the best actress award at the 2012 Venice Film Festival.

Palm Springs, 112 miles east of Los Angeles, has been a favorite playground of Hollywood celebrities since the 1920s, and an array of stars usually attends the festival.

The desert resort cemented its attraction to the Hollywood crowd when the old studios issued the “two-hour rule.” It stated that any actor under contract had to report to the studio within two hours for any last minute reshooting.

Also honored this year in Palm Springs was the Holocaust-themed Serbian film, “When Day Breaks.” In the movie by director Goran Paskaljevic, an elderly music professor, who has always considered himself Christian, discovers that he is the son of Jewish parents, who left him with a farmer’s family and later perished in the Holocaust.

As the stunned professor wanders through present-day Belgrade, he finds that few people remember the war years or that the city’s neglected fairgrounds served as a concentration camp for the local Jews. With his musician friends, he sets about to establish a memorial at the site.

Like the professor, “I cannot NOT remember,” Paskaljevic said in an interview.  “If we forget the crimes committed during World War II, and later in Bosnia, that opens the door to new crimes.”