32nd Jerusalem Film Festival

Israel, July 9 - July 19 2015

The jury

Jack Mener (Belgium), José Luis Losa (Spain), Yair Raveh (Israel)

Awarded films

Founded in 1984 by the late Lia Van Leer and her husband Wim, with the aid of Jerusalem’s legendary mayor Teddy Kolleck, the Jerusalem International Film Festival has been Israel’s biggest and most influential film festival for many years. Its Israeli Feature Film Competition was the launching pad for many of the country’s recent classics such as Late Marriage, The Band’s Visit, Ajami and Gett.

Set on the slopes of a breathtakingly beautiful valley at the foot of the walls of the old city, with the holiest places for Christians, Muslims and Jews within walking distance, the Jerusalem Cinematheque is an attraction in itself.

The festival has known its share of ups and downs. For about 20 years, between 1990 and 2010, it was the biggest festival in Israel. The opening night film, shown outdoors at the historical Sultan’s Pool, is screened to an audience of 5,000. The huge screen saw the Israeli premieres of many hits, from Pixar’s to Almodovar’s. Under the artistic direction of Mr. Avinoam Harpak, the Jerusalem Film Festival was among the first in the world to recognize the genius of international filmmakers such as Michael Haneke, Wong Kar-Wai, Tsai Ming-Liang, Hal Hartley and the masters of contemporary Iranian cinema. Many of them had their breakout films shown here, and were invited by Van Leer to be guests of the festival.

The festival was also among the first Israeli institutions to showcase and support the rise of Palestinian cinema. Filmmakers Hany Abu Assad, Elia Suliman and Ali Nassar presented their debut works in the festival, which made a point of using cinema as a bridge of healing, dialogue and peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Surviving several years of financial and personal turmoil, the festival has rejuvenated under the leadership of Noa Regev, who holds a Ph.d in Film Studies. With artistic director Elad Samorzik by her side, Regev has made the Jerusalem Film Festival once again a landmark event on the international film calendar.

This year’s edition presented World Premieres of five Israeli features films (Tikkun, written and directed by Avishai Sivan, was the clear winner, sweeping the awards for best film, screenplay, actor and cinematography), and Israeli premieres of some of the recent highlights on the international festival circuit. The festival’s guest of honor, actor John Torturro, presented the opening night film, Nanni Moretti’s My Mother (Mia Madre, Italy, 2015), in which he stars. A special event was dedicated to the festival’s founder Lia Van Leer who passed away earlier this year at the age of 91.

In 2014, with the formation of the Israeli Film Critics Association, the Jerusalem Film Festival renewed its collaboration with FIPRESCI, adding the FIPRESCI First Feature Film Award to its awards roster. This year’s winner was the American film Songs My Brothers Taught Me, directed by Chloe Zhao. (Yair Raveh)

Jerusalem Film Festival: www.jff.org.il