31st Jerusalem Film Festival

Israel, July 10 - July 20 2014

The jury

Eithne O'Neill (France), Andrzej Kolodynski (Poland), Pablo Utin (Israel)

Awarded films

The 31st International Jerusalem Film Festival presented an array of new events, people and circumstances. Among them was a new cooperation with FIPRESCI initiated by the new Israeli Film Critics Association, but mainly a new administration with Noa Regev (32) as the festival director and Elad Samorzik as the programmer. This very young management with its very young team had much to prove and many eyes were set on them. As if this kind of pressure wasn’t enough, a few days before the festival opened the perpetual conflict between Israel and the Palestinians escalated and Hamas attacked Israel as a reaction to the Israeli government’s hard policy. Although some filmmakers cancelled their planned visit and the outdoors opening event was aborted for security reasons, most of the guests did arrive and the festival went on more or less as planned. It must be acknowledged, these were strange days to enter a movie theater and watch art-films. Sirens would sound every once in a while, and even if Jerusalem was a relatively secure place (the festival center is just a few blocks from the old city where the religious centers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are situated, so it wasn’t very probable that rockets would be aimed at that territory) still there was a surreal feeling that opting for business as usual might be ethically problematic.

Having said that, staying at home waiting for the rockets to fall and following the news about Israeli retaliation wasn’t really a better option. The screenings weren’t packed but they were almost full, and this can be viewed as a huge success. The Israeli competition was of a very high quality, with four films arriving straight from Cannes and the other three were world premieres of first-time filmmakers. During the festival the eight Israeli directors, lead by Keren Yedayah, collectively announced their discontent with the political situation and their disagreement with the attacks on Gaza, but nobody was really up to cancel the event. Suddenly, watching films became a complex act. Film theaters became both bunkers and a space for escapism. Not only cinema was vividly discussed but also politics. And even if there was a relatively calm atmosphere, in a sense this was a real Israeli experience, maybe too real. At the end, with the situation still not very clear, it was obvious that the festival’s young management had overcome a baptism by fire. (Pablo Utin)

Jerusalem Film Festival: www.jff.org.il/?cl=en