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Tel Aviv kicks off City to City program

New sidebar offers varied views of complex metropolis

Tel Aviv — the “Bubble,” the “Big Orange,” the “City That Never Sleeps.” Israel’s business, cultural and entertainment capital provides the goods for the Toronto Intl. Film Festival’s first City to City program. Now celebrating its 100th anniversary, the eclectic seaside metropolis shaped by different waves of immigration symbolizes the energy and spirit of a modern, vibrant Israel.

TIFF co-director Cameron Bailey notes, “We chose Tel Aviv to kick this series off because its filmmaking is at a real high point right now and because the films reflect the city’s diversity and complexity in a way we think will strike a chord in Toronto.”

Co-programmer Kate Lawrie Van de Ven adds, “The works are provocatively diverse, and they simultaneously connect with approaches to narrative that we are seeing in other global cities while constantly tying their stories back to Tel Aviv concerns.”

The 10 selected titles illustrate the city’s evolving urban experience. Providing context is ambitious two-part docu “A History of Israeli Cinema.” Covering the years 1932-2005, it considers the difficulty of creating a national cinematographic identity in a country of many languages and cultures.

“History” also provides a framework for understanding how older pics such as 1969 comedy “Big Dig,” 1974 counterculture portrait “Big Eyes” and 1992 social critique “Life According to Agfa” capture a national mood.

Among the world preems, “Bena” mixes family drama with the problems of illegal foreign workers, action thriller “Kirot” expands the notion of what Israeli cinema is, and “Phobidilia” centers on a protag overwhelmed by city life. Meanwhile, “Jaffa” unfolds in the ancient port city, now part of the Tel Aviv municipality, and follows the clandestine affair of a young Jewish woman and an Arab mechanic.

With six other Israeli features elsewhere in TIFF, City to City signals a vote of confidence for recent Israeli cinema. Might this translate to sales? Don Krim, topper of distrib Kino Intl., plans to check it out. He says, “Kino has been looking to Israel for over 10 years as a source of politically and cinematically world-class films.”

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