Six who are taking local cinema into a new era
Cedar has made a habit of helming thought-provoking pics that stir up boffo B.O. in Israel. Born in New York in 1968, he and his family moved to an Orthodox religious community in Israel when he was 6. The former paratrooper, who studied film at New York U., earned big box office and an Oscar foreign-language nom for his debut feature “Time of Favour” in 2000. “Beaufort,” his take on the Israeli army’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000, is the biggest-grossing pic at the Israeli box office this year; it’s also earned Cedar a director award at Berlin. He is working on a musical biopic of Shlomo Carlebach, otherwise known as the Singing Rabbi.
Kolirin’s debut, “The Band’s Visit,” about a traveling Egyptian music troupe that becomes stranded in a remote Israeli village, is precisely the type of film that tries to bring audiences together. The 34-year-old Kolirin, who remembers spending much of his childhood watching Egyptian films on Israeli TV with his grandmother, has confessed that his dream would be for his pic to play in the Cairo Film Fest. While politics may prevent that from happening, the idealistic helmer can at least content himself with his Coup du Coeur award at Cannes as well as a U.S. distribution deal with Sony Picture Classics that may be the richest ever for an Israeli film.
Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen
Husband-and-wife team Keret and Geffen may just be the golden couple of Israeli cinema right now. Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Keret is arguably the most popular writer among Israeli youth today, while the 34-year-old Geffen is among Israel’s most accomplished theater directors. Their debut feature, “Jellyfish,” about three women winding their way through modern-day Tel Aviv, picked up the prestigious Camera d’Or at this year’s Cannes. Keret is currently working on a book of short stories centered on a child who performs with a traveling vaudeville show.
Volach’s life story could become a film in itself. Born in Israel in 1970, Volach was brought up, together with his 19 siblings, in an ultra-Orthodox family in the Haredic community in Jerusalem, one of the most Orthodox Jewish communities in the country. In his late teens, he studied in the Ponevezh yeshiva, one of the most famous Talmudic yeshivas in Israel. He left his religious community at the age of 25, became secular and moved to Tel Aviv, where he took up filmmaking courses. His debut feature “My Father My Lord” — shot over eight days for less than $300,000 — has picked up gongs at Tribeca and Taormina and tells the powerful story of, fittingly enough, an aging rabbi and his wife.
Born and raised in Tiberias, multihyphenate is a graduate of the film and television department at Tel Aviv U. He teaches filmmaking and scriptwriting courses at the Sam Spiegel School in Jerusalem. “Aviva My Love,” his fourth feature as director and writer, was the biggest film at the Israeli box office last year, garnering more than 300,000 admissions and beating out sequels to both “Pirates of the Caribbean” and “Harry Potter” for the top spot. “Aviva” won the Wolgin Award for best Israeli feature at the Jerusalem Film Fest last year as well as the best screenplay award at Shanghai, China’s only A-list fest.
The 36-year-old Shaul was already a successful commercials helmer in Israel before he turned his hand to features in 2003 with “Sima the Witch.” His third feature, “Sweet Mud,” a coming-of-age tale about life on an Israeli kibbutz in the 1970s, is indicative of a new wave of Israeli helmers seeking to distance themselves from overt politics. Pic took home the Glass Bear Award at Berlin as well as the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance.