In conversation with Eddie Tamir from JIFF
What can we expect from this year’s festival?
65 films, from 26 countries, and this year two thirds are feature films and a third are documentaries. There is an even split of half Israeli production and half diaspora production with Jewish themes or stories, which is how we like to roll, because we like the whole integration of a Jewish film voice internationally rather than focusing on Israel or focusing on diaspora, so we definitely have a broader canvas than many Jewish film festivals internationally.
Do we have any Australian films in this year?
We do. We have an exciting line up of Australian films. We’ve got two from the director Danny Ben-Moshe, one is called My Mother’s Lost Children which will ultimately be on the ABC and we’re having an Australian premiere of that. And that story is about his own mother and her story which is fascinating. And then he did a very quirky film in terms of its content, called Shalom Bollywood – which is the history of the Jewish presence in the Bollywood film industry in the 30s and 40s.
The other big thing that excites me, is we have one of the earliest Yiddish films ever made in 1937 – The Dybbuk – and we have the newest Yiddish language film – Menashe – which is a Sundance hit this year. So we span eighty years of Yiddish filmmaking.
What is Jewish film’s place in the current political and social climate, would you say?
Yeah, good question. I think it’s relevant because Jews are traditionally grapplers with stuff, grappling with personal journeys, grappling with political changes and tumult and they continue to and so that’s reflected in many of the films which then have universal resonance. For example we have a documentary on Freud, we’ve got a documentary on the Russian Jews, which is actually interesting because the Jewish Museum is putting on a Russian Jewish Exhibition, is that right?
We’re doing an Amy Winehouse exhibition and that also has a Russian Jewish theme to it, because that was where her family was from.
So we’re actually featuring a three part, brand new, documentary series called Russian Jews about the total history of Russian Jews. Karl Marx and the big Jewish thinkers have relevance to contemporary politics too, they’re the cornerstones but the contemporary stories are fantastic as well. On the social conscience political stuff you’ve got a film called Muhi which is nominated for an Oscar this year in documentary. And it’s about how Israel deals with non-Jewish minorities in Israel. Muhi is a beautiful story about a Palestinian boy who was born without arms or legs, that lives in an Israeli hospital and has done so for 5 years with his grandfather.
Is that a documentary?
That is a documentary.
And then we’ve got another one again. One of the hit Israeli films of the year, is called In Between, and its about three young Palestinian women living in Tel-Aviv. And they range from the total universal, human secular female to very conservative Muslim upbringing, and it’s about the relationship between the three of them and their experience in contemporary Tel-Aviv.
Would you say it’s part of the mission of JIFF to reflect a diverse Jewish and Israeli identity?
It’s about reflecting the full patchwork of Jewish experience and identity. And then that deals in particular with Israel being the coalface of Jewish life and Jewish history at the moment, grappling with many, many issues specific to Israel that have universal themes.
Have you noticed any trends in the films?
Two come to mind. One is quite an unusual cluster of films about romance in older years. We’ve got quite a few films in that category, all really interesting. And the other one is secrets and trauma, and people dealing with 2nd and 3rd generation identity questions and wartime experience questions through generations.
What are your top picks for the festival?
An amazing documentary again nominated for an Israeli Oscar called Ben-Gurion, Epilogue based upon some recently found footage that has never been broadcast of an interview with Ben Gurion in his later years.
There’s In Between I have mentioned to you already.
There’s a film, big hit in Israel and America called Wedding Plan about a thirty-something religious woman who has not been that successful in finding a life partner, which is her big ambition. She goes through the whole dating scene etc, unsatisfied, has a big break up and then says I’m going to let faith lead me. I will plan everything, I will do everything, I will book the wedding hall, the band, the food, send out all the invitations, and the groom will be there on the day.
And then there’s a film that won the Tribeca Film Festival this year for best feature called Keep the Change, a romantic comedy about a young man and a woman that meet in a support group in a Jewish community centre in Manhattan.
The Last Suit, which hasn’t been seen anywhere, is an Argentinian film about a 90 year old Argentinean Jewish guy whose family wants to put him in a retirement home, but he bucks against that and decides to cross into Poland to meet the guy who saved him during the war.
And the last one I will tell you about is called The Women’s Balcony, an enormous box office hit in Israel, about a Mizrahi-style community. The women’s section in the synagogue collapses and that brings on a whole change of culture.
We’re doing our program launch on the 24th of September with the film Jungle, the amazing story about Yossi Ghinsberg, an Israeli guy lost in the South American jungle for a month, and he is played by Daniel Radcliffe.
Thanks Eddie! We can’t wait for the festival, launching 24th September at the Classic Cinema in Elsternwick. Head over to www.jiff.com.au for all the latest program information.