The Jerusalem International Film Festival is the largest in Israel and over the years has earned its reputation, attracting film enthusiasts from all over the country. It is also the annual meeting place for people who work in the Israeli film industry, who gather to see the work done in the past year, as well as projects in progress through professional meetings and pitching sessions.
The IFFJ includes a strong international competition (established in 2016), retrospectives (this year Jean-Pierre Melville was in the spotlight), screenings of films restored by the Israel Film Archive (including Gilberto Tofano's Siege shot in 1968, just after the Six-Day War), and also several sections devoted to Israeli cinema in all its diversity. Some fifty features films (documentaries and fiction) are produced each year in Israel, and many of them are screened at the festival. It’s an exceptional opportunity to discover a cinema which does not hesitate to seize the many political, economic, social and religious issues of the country. There is also a large section devoted to short films (including a competition), made by film school students as well as experienced filmmakers.
As always, the opening of the festival took place a few steps from the cinematheque, at the foot of the old town in an open-air theatre. Michel Hazavanicius attended the screening of Redoubtable (Le Redoutable) that launched the 34th edition, accompanied by Louis Garrel who plays the role of Jean-Luc Godard. More than a thousand people attened the screening which was a great success. Also noteworthy is a set of events scattered throughout the city, including a western railway station restored at the Jaffa Gate. A special screening of Cinema Paradiso at the Muristan Square in the heart of the Christian Quarter transformed it into an Italian-style Piazza, and several interactive animations based on new technologies were offered to children in several locations at the old city.
But the festival's major asset is the Cinémathèque building, a jewel located just a stone's throw from the old city walls, facing Mount Zion. On the hillside, the building blends into the landscape, thanks to its reasoned architecture, made of stone from the area. Inside, an extremely well-stocked bookshop and video library, a restaurant with a splendid terrace, several cafes, and four screening rooms equipped with the best technical facilities. Air conditioning is of course an important element of the overall exceptional comfort of the place (the temperature in July rarely falls below 35 degrees), and from the early evening hours the outdoor garden overlooking the ramparts and a grazing valley is simply a magical and restful place. A little later, at nightfall, a DJ adds to the atmosphere with an eclectic selection of tunes.
The International Jerusalem Film Festival is a breath of fresh air in a city charged with tension and provides essential perspectives to understand the complexity of the area.
The jury presented two prizes, to a debut in the international competition, and to a debut in the national / Israeli competition.
Edited by Yael Shuv
© FIPRESCI 2017