Docaviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, under its new management by Karin Rywkind Segal, has carefully carved its niche as one of the leading documentary festivals worldwide. It is the largest film festival in the city of Tel Aviv, and the only festival in Israel dedicated in its entirety to documentary films. The 19th installment of the festival (May 11-20, 2017) celebrated documentary cinema not only at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, where most screenings took place. Films were also screened, admission free, at several venues around the city, such as the Tel Aviv Port, Jaffa Port, selected rooftops, public gardens and main squares. For example, music documentaries about Oasis, The Beatles and The Stooges were screened at the Tel Aviv Port in front of hundreds of viewers.
Among the special guests this year were Brazilian filmmaker João Moreira Salles, who introduced his latest film In the Intense Now; French documentarist Claire Simon, who taught a Master Class about observing human systems, following her new film The Graduation; acclaimed French philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy with his documentary Battle of Mosul; Russian dancer Sergei Polunin, star of the biographical documentary The Dancer; and the provocative Slovenian rock band Laibach, subject of the film Liberation Day.
The festival screened over 120 new documentaries from Israel and from around the world, 38 of which were included in four competitive frameworks: The Israeli Competition, the International Competition, the Depth of Field Competition, and the Student Competition. The festival also featured a special tribute program called Masters, dedicated to the work of esteemed filmmakers such as Vitaly Mansky and Sergei Loznista, as well as special programs dedicated to music and art. There was even a unique section focusing on True Crime documentaries.
All of the thirteen films in the Israeli Documentary Competition dealt with individual attempts to transcend cultural and institutional boundaries. The Best Israeli Film Award went to Moran Ifergan’s impressive debut The Wall, a provocative documentary about a woman’s attempt to resist restrictive tradition and patriarchy. An Honorable Mention was given to Netalie Brown’s Hope I’m in the Frame, a non-conventional biography of two underrated filmmakers in Israel. Best Direction Award, presented by FIPRESCI, went to the thoroughly researched and cleverly structured The Ancestral Sin, a harrowing documentary about the cruelly systemized discrimination that took place during the first years of the State of Israel.
In the International Competition, composed of eleven films, Best Film Award went to Jiu-liang Wang’s Plastic China, for the unparalleled balance it creates between several global issues and intimate familial relationships. An Honorable Mention went to Raoul Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro, which examines the role of violence and oppression in America as seen through James Baldwin’s sharp critical gaze. Eight extraordinary films were screened in The Depth of Field Competition, devoted to films that blur boundaries between fiction and documentary and exceed conventional definitions. The Artistic Vision Award went to Dean Fleischer- Camp’s Fraud, a clever recut of innocent home movies that becomes a whole new film with a nefarious plot. An Honorable Mention went to Yuri Ancarani’s The Challenge, which provides a breathtaking and intimate look into an otherwise exclusive world of young Qatari Sheiks.(Ohad Landesman, edited by Yael Shuv)