Twilight Of A Life and 7 Days In St. Petersburg sweep the Israeli competition at 17th Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival

Approaching the Elephant

Amanda Wilder’s Approaching the Elephant won the Best International Film Award at the 17th Docaviv, the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, which ran May 7-16. The award comes with cash prize of €4,500.

The observational documentary about three students of one of the few “free schools” in the US, where all classes are voluntary and rules are determined by vote, and adults and children have an equal say, world-premiered at the 2014 True/False Film Festival.

The special jury mention went to A German Youth, the first feature film of renowned experimental film-maker Jean-Gabriel Periot. The France-Germany-Switzerland co-production is an account of the Baader-Meinhof Group and the tense political situation in West Germany in the 1960s and ’70s, completely built from archive materials, and had its world premiere in Berlinale’s Panorama this year.

Camilla Nielson’s Democrats, about an attempt at developing a democratic system in Zimbabwe, and the winner of two awards at CPH:DOX, received the Freedom Award of FEDEORA, the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. 

The same jury gave out the Best Director Award in the Israeli Competition, which includes €1,100, to Sylvain Biegeleisen for Twilight Of A Life. The intimate film composed of director’s interaction with his dying 94 year-old mother recently opened Visions du Reel in Nyon, and won Jury Award for Best Belgian Documentary at Leuven’s Docville.

The Israeli-Belgian co-production also won the Best Israeli Film Award, worth €16,000.

The Special Jury Mention, and €4,500, went to Reuven Brodsky’s 7 Days In St. Petersburg, a story of mother-son reunion after 12 years. The film also picked up the Best Editing Award (€900) for Brodsky, who also shot it, and Best Original Music Award (€1,100) for Adi Rennert.

John Cherny, the DoP of Vladi Antonevicz’s Credit for Murder, a detective-style exploration of a crime of a neo-nazi group in Russia, won the Best Cinematography Award, worth €900.

Mor Loushy’s Sundance entry Censored Voices, about Israeli soldiers’ experiences in the Six Day War, received the Mayor of Tel Aviv-Yafo Award for Debut Film, worth €6,800. The film also picked up the Best Research Award (€900).

A special mention from the FEDEORA jury was given to Assaf Banitt for Against Your Will.

In the Art and Culture Competition, the award worth €2,300 went to Arab Movie by Eyal Sagui Bizawe and Sara Tsifroni, and Matti Caspi - Confession  by Dalia Mevorach and Dani Dothan received a special mention.

Matthew Bate’s Australia-US co-production Sam Klemke’s Time Machine won the $3,000 Artistic Vision Award for the best film of the Depth of Field Competition.

In the Student Competition, the awards went to Miki Polonski’s 1 Building and 40 People Dancing, Mazal Ben Yishal’s Mazal Means Luck, and Nitzan Lahav’s Etoile.

The festival reported that it expects to have sold 50,000 admissions after the last screening on Saturday [16], which is 10% more than in 2014, and the figures from last year were already 10,000 tickets over the 2013 edition.

“We like to believe this is the result of all our hard work and quality programming,” says Sinai Abt, the artistic director of the festival. “But that is certainly not the only explanation. There is a big audience for mainstream media and television, but there is also a backlash. A part of the audience is looking for alternatives and they come to Docaviv. They might be a minority, but they are a big minority.”