The 23rd Israel Film Festival hits Los Angeles this year with an extra reason to celebrate: Israel’s 60th birthday. In honor of six decades of Israeli statehood, the fest is unspooling a retrospective of 29 of Israel’s most beloved movies, including all seven pics nominated for an Academy Award for foreign-language film.
“In the past 60 years, Israeli film has changed tremendously,” says Meir Fenigstein, founder and exec director of the fest. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Israeli films from A to Z.”
Among the fan faves are 1963 Academy Award nominee “Sallah,” a laffer toplining “Fiddler on the Roof” star Haim Topol; 1978’s “Lemon Popsicle,” which chronicled the escapades of three sex-starved teenagers well before “Porky’s” and “American Pie”; and 1999’s “Kadosh,” Amos Gitai’s deeply introspective meller about the treatment of Orthodox women in Israel. Filmmaker Boaz Davidson, who recently produced “88 Minutes,” and actor Mike Burstyn, winner of two Ophir Awards, Israel’s version of the Oscars, will be feted.
Fest also features several preems, including the opening-night feature, Avi Nesher’s “The Secrets,” being shown for the first time on the West Coast, as well as three of the seven feature documentaries to be shown.
The festival, which also will play in Miami and New York, is benefiting from an Israeli film renaissance. “The movie industry has really improved in Israel,” Israel Consul General Jacob Dayan says. “The films speak to an international audience. It’s not just another film about conflict.”
Fest Encore Feature Presentations include recent Stateside favorites “The Band’s Visit,” about an Egyptian police orchestra stranded in a desolate Israeli town, and “Beaufort,” the country’s 2007 foreign-language Oscar nominee.
Los Angeles: June 11-26
New York: Nov. 5-20
Miami: Dec. 3-14