Review: ‘A Beautiful Valley’

It's a shame controversy will dog "A Beautiful Valley," since Hadar Friedlich's debut tackles a forgotten subject with sensitivity, notwithstanding plot sidelines squeezed in to humanize the protag.

It’s a shame controversy will dog “A Beautiful Valley,” since Hadar Friedlich’s debut tackles a forgotten subject with sensitivity, notwithstanding plot sidelines squeezed in to humanize the protag. The source of the ruckus isn’t the story, about an elderly kibbutz founder unwilling to watch the movement die, but rather the poorly handled decision by the Jerusalem fest to revoke an award due to perceived conflict of interest. Though the pic has flaws and benefits from prior knowledge of the kibbutz scene, “Valley” deserves exposure and should be popular at Jewish/Israeli festivals.

The kibbutz archive is in desperate need of restoration, but the community is nearly bankrupt and the leaders aren’t prioritizing the past. The same is happening to the increasingly elderly residents, including Hanna (Batia Bar), a tough, outwardly cold woman who gave her life to the ideal of kibbutz life and can’t bear to see it crumble. Friedlich tosses in a younger woman (Hadar Avigad) who seeks out Hanna’s company, and an elderly rival (Ruth Geller), but both figures are too obvious as softening agents. A still camera and handsome long shots emphasize the tranquility of the land.

A Beautiful Valley

Israel-France

Production

An Advitam (in France) release of a July August Prods., Les Films du Poisson production, with the participation of Arte, Cofinova, Orange Cinema, Keshet. Produced by Eilon Ratzkovsky, Yael Fogiel, Laetitia Gonzale, Yossi Uzrad, Yochanan Kredo, Guy Jacoel. Directed, written by Hadar Friedlich.

Crew

Camera (color), Talia Galon; editors, Nelly Quettier, Friedlich; music, Uri Ophir; production designer, Shunit Aharoni; costume designer, Zmira Ratzkovsky. Reviewed at San Sebastian Film Festival (Zabaltegi New Directors), Sept. 21, 2011 (Also in Jerusalem Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 89 MIN.

With

Batia Bar, Gili Ben Ouzilio, Hadar Avigad, Ruth Geller, Eli Ben-Rey. (Hebrew dialogue)

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