Israel is rightly famed for its thriving film industry for directors, actors and other creatives who produce films that provide snapshots of life in Israel. From delicious quirky comedies to tense dramas: they are not afraid to engage with the difficult issues facing the septuagenarian state and its inhabitants.
Every year the Tel Aviv University (TAU) Night at the Movies provides an exciting opportunity for UK audiences to see a handful of short films created by graduates from the Steve Tisch School of Film and Television at TAU. And every year they provide new proof that the future of Israel’s film industry is in safe hands.
This 11th year is no exception, treating audiences to imaginative writing, superb acting and direction and beautifully conceived and executed scenarios, with subjects ranging from the pursuit of Jews who collaborated with the Nazis to the plight of a postman in love.
Sabrine Khoury’s Santé is a subtle take on the tensions that can underlie relationships between Arabs and Jews, even when they share the most light-hearted of pursuits. The excitement of a forthcoming salsa dancing show is tempered by tensions for one dancer – an Arab girl in a relationship with her Jewish dance partner – because the show is to take place in a settlement. Khoury and her cast/crew contrast the fun of rehearsals with the nerves that lead to lovers’ tiffs and at the climax the predicament of her heroine at the army checkpoint. There’s a telling scene at the café where she works when her boss asks her not to chat with her fellow waitress in Arabic in front of customers.
Naor Meningher’s Old Score deals with a vital theme: the shadow of the Holocaust. It takes audiences back to 1950s Tel Aviv, where the wounds inflicted by the Holocaust are red raw. Tzvi is a police detective responsible for interrogating 'kapos' – Jews accused of assisting the Nazis. He is confronted with the dilemma of whom to believe, accuser or accused, as he investigates a case brought by a woman who is convinced she has spotted the kapo responsible for inflicting vicious sadism on her and her fellow camp inmates. Meningher and his cast play expertly with their audience, ensuring our doubts mount too. There is a fine sense of period and the dilemmas facing the young state post-war.
Adi Kutner’s Barbie Blues belies its suburban setting with a scenario as disturbing as the dead bird of prey its teenage heroine finds in the family swimming pool. Mika asks new neighbour Gershon to help fish it out, but their subsequent friendly frolicking in the pool takes an altogether darker turn in a film that left me feeling distinctly uncomfortable.
The Postman in Underwear is an enchanting little fantasy from Ben Ziv and Daniel Binstead. A youngster tells his little brother the story of an eccentric postman’s love for a lass whose post he delivers every day. As the brothers share the tale, they conjure the tousle-haired postman and the object of his affections, egging him on with advice and encouragement. It’s an enchanting conceit and a life-affirming climax to an evening that ensures its audience runs the gamut of emotions.
Help support Israel’s emerging film talent so that it can continue to make an impact worldwide.
TAU Trust Night at the Movies is on Wednesday 6 June. 7.15pm. £60-£120 suggested donation for your group. Ham Yard Hotel, W1D 7DT. http://tau-trust.co.uk