If You Go…
WHAT: Israel Film Festival
WHEN: Oct. 23-Nov. 6
WHERE: Laemmle’s Town Center, Encino; Laemmle’s NoHo 7, North Hollywood; and Laemmle’s Music Hall, Saban Theatre and Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills.
TICKETS: Screenings $13, seniors and students $11; more for special showings and events. Opening-night gala, $50, $150.
The 28th Israel Film Festival starts Thursday with an opening-night gala at the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills. Screenings commence Friday at the Town Center in Encino and Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills, then expand to North Hollywood’s NoHo 7 from Nov. 1 – 6.
Israel has been on a commercial and creative roll, and Meir Fenigstein, the festival’s founder and executive director, couldn’t be more excited about bringing its most vibrant and intriguing productions to Los Angeles.
“The Israeli film industry has done very, very well in the last few years,” said Fenigstein, who spent many years in L.A. and now lives in his hometown of Tel Aviv. “When I started the Israel Film Festival, people would say, ‘You produce films in Israel? You have time for that?’ At that time, we didn’t make so many films. This year, there were about 37 Israeli feature films. Ten years ago, there were about 12.
“I really hope the audience will come and see,” Fenigstein said. “Not just Israelis and Jews — I think that the films are very meaningful and the stories are very diverse. There’s something everybody can relate to.”
Thursday’s slate at the Saban opens with a VIP reception for many of the Israeli filmmakers; an awards ceremony for producers Arnon Milchan (who has the acclaimed “Gone Girl” and “Birdman” currently in theaters) and Mace Neufeld (“The Equalizer”); and Dana Ivgy, star of the night’s offering, “Next to Her,” and another IFF entry, “Zero Motivation.”
Those two movies exemplify the wide-ranging subject matter Fenigstein said. “Next” is a co-dependency drama about a woman, her mentally challenged sister and the man who alters their lives, while “Zero,” the year’s biggest hit back home, is a black comedy about women in the Army.
Among the program’s 28 features, documentaries, TV shows and shorts are the family comedy “Hill Start”; “The Dove Flyer,” a dramatization in Arabic about the loss of Iraq’s once-thriving Jewish community; “Kicking Out Shoshana,” a look at gay stereotypes — and soccer! — in buttoned-down Jerusalem; the action/crime thriller “Suicide”; and films centering on pole dancers, Hasidic rappers, war heroes and other unique individuals.
Tributes to two recently departed Israeli film figures — larger-than-life indie producer Menahem Golan and director-actor Assi Dayan, son of the famed Israel Defense Forces general Moshe Dayan, who died in May at 68 — are accompanied by new documentaries about each man, “The Go-Go Boys: The Inside Story of Cannon Films” and “Life As a Rumor,” respectively.
There’s also a short documentary featuring Fenigstein himself, who in a previous life was drummer for the 1970s Israeli rock band Kaveret/Poogy. “The Story of Poogy,” so called for a nickname of Fenigstein, charts his relationship with the grown daughter he never knew he had, along with some of the group’s reunion gigs.
“There is a full spectrum of topics,” said Bob Laemmle, retired president of the family-owned SoCal theater chain that’s hosted IFF for most of the past three decades. “It’s important that Hollywood gets an opportunity to see the creative forces that are in Israel. It’s very interesting stuff.”
One subject on which IFF will tread lightly is the Arab-Israeli conflict, which was inflamed again by this summer’s fighting in Gaza.
“There are very few films about the conflict,” Fenigstein noted. “The festival is about human beings, it’s about relationships. We are apolitical. We don’t favor the religious side nor the secular side. It’s basically about bringing Israeli society to Los Angeles, so people can see the real way that people are thinking.”
For more information and tickets, go to www.israelfilmfestival.com.