26th Jerusalem Film Festival
Israel, July 9 - July 18 2009
On May 17, 1984, Le Bal by Ettore Scola, opened the first Jerusalem International Film Festival. Over the course of three weeks, about one-hundred films were screened, including Israeli premieres, alongside the year’s best selection of international films. In addition, a distinguished group of guests honored the first festival, among them, the First Lady of Silent Film, Lillian Gish, as well as Jeanne Moreau and Warren Beaty, John Schlesinger, and Andre Delvaux.
Since then, and throughout the 1980s, the festival matured into its present form: it is ten days long, screening between 150-200 films in a number of programs: Panorama, showcasing the best of international feature films; Documentary Films, dedicated to international documentary film-making; The Jewish Experience, dealing with issues of Jewish identity and history; In the Spirit of Freedom, concerned with questions of freedom and human rights; Television Dramas, New Directors, and of course, Israeli Film.
From its inception, the festival has dedicated a central and unique space to Israeli cinema, premiering features, documentaries, and shorts. In 1989, the festival granted an official stamp of validity to Israeli cinema with the introduction of the Wolgin Competition, named after the charitable Jack Wolgin of Philadelphia. Today, the Wolgin Competition grants a yearly award to a full-length film, a documentary, and a short. The Wolgin Competition became the first venue to showcase the majority of the most important Israeli films of the past two decades. In time, additional Israeli prizes became part of the festival, including the Film & Television Award in Memory of Anat Pirchi, as well as other prizes and grants for best actors and scripts. These competitions placed Israeli cinema in the limelight and turned the Festival into an esteemed venue for local cinema.
Beyond its contribution to Israeli cinema, the Jerusalem International Film Festival remains one of the few platforms that bring the world’s finest contemporary cinematic trends to the local audience. Over the years, the festival has screened film debuts by Wong Kar Wai, Tsai Ming-liang, John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, Stephen Frears, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Jordan, John Lasseter and other names that have turned into the masters of our time. Many of these directors’ films became regulars at the Festival, and personal favorites with the Israeli audience. (Gidi Orsher, edited by Yael Shuv)
Jerusalem Film Festival: www.jff.org.il