By William Wolf

ISRAEL FILM FESTIVAL 2004  Send This Review to a Friend

Israel continues to have a busy film industry in the midst of all of its problems, as exemplified here by the 20th Annual Israel Film Festival in New York (Oct. 14-28). The opening night gala had its largest venue yet, this one at the Clearview Ziegfeld Theater, followed by a party at Iguana. The basic locale for the rest of the festival then switched to the Clearview Broadway at 62nd Street Theater.

Brightening the opening festivities was Dr. Joy Browne, psychologist, author and film reviewer, who handles call-in personal problems on her widely-syndicated radio show. At the gala, awards were given for outstanding achievements. A special career award went to actor and director Bob Balaban. Matthew C. Blank, Chairman and CEO of Showtime Networks Inc., received the 2004 Lifetime Visionary Award.

Theater and Film producer Martin Richards was honored with the 2004 Lifetime Achievement Award, with Israeli filmmaker Avi Nesher getting the Cinematic Award.

After the opening night ceremonies, the audience was able to see Nesher’s latest film, “Turn Left at the End of the World.” This was an eye-opener, a fascinating movie dealing with the ethnic mix that has become so much a part of the Israeli scene. In this case, there is the proximity of Indian immigrants and Moroccan immigrants, and the mix produces its tensions as well as joys.

Set in the 1960s, “Turn Left at the End of the World” involves illicit romance, jealousy and anguish, but also has some very funny moments derived from the clash of cultures. Everything but the kitchen sink is tossed into the stew but the vibrancy and colorful performances keep the film engaging, and it emerges as one of the better works that have come from Israel in recent years. It reportedly was a big hit at home.

Twenty-nine films were on the schedule for the festival, representing many directors. Among the more provocative titles were, “The Syrian Bride,” “Columbian Love,” “Life is Life,” “Henry’s Dream,” “Miss Entebbe,” “Valley of Dreams,” “Roots of Rage,” “Jerusalem Brew” and “In the Name of God.”

Under the guidance of founder Meir Fenigstein, the festival has grown considerably in its two decades of existence, with many sponsors coming aboard. There are now also editions of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles (April 29-May 13), Chicago (November 3-14) and Miami (Dec. 1-9).


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