This year’s Jerusalem Film Festival hosts a bumper crop of shorts from across Israel’s film schools and industry.

The 31st Jerusalem Film Festival is playing host to more short films than ever before, after a record number of submissions. This year, 27 films have made the cut for the shorts competition, which will also hand out twice as many awards as last year. Among the highlights are Guy Nattiv and Erez Tadmor’s Dear God [pictured], starring Lior Ashkenazi, Student Oscar-winner Paris On The Water and Berlin Golden Bear nominee Smile, And The World Will Smile Back.

This year’s line-up is not only reflective of contemporary Israel but touches on themes prominent in previous editions of the festival.

“If someone was to watch all 27 films in the shorts competition, they would get a good sense of Israel today,” says shorts programmer Erez Barenholtz.

“Most of the directors are young and offer fresh voices on a lot of personal experiences. They are edgy. The selection reflects an ongoing trend in the shorts competition in recent years, namely a study of the human body as a source of pleasure and pain,” he continues.

“In previous years, this theme was manifested through young leading characters and could be interpreted as a question posed by young Israelis over their ability to live a satisfying life in Israel, while struggling on the front lines of gender, nationality and family conflicts.

“This year’s selection deals with the same question, while widening the prism and looking into the ‘decaying’ life of older characters.”

The Sam Spiegel Film & Television School and Tel Aviv University’s film and television department remain the pre-eminent channels for young Israeli film talent, but other schools and independent productions are also well represented in the line-up.

“Despite our small size, we have 15 films schools in Israel and in this year’s shorts competition we have films from all over the country,” adds Barenholtz.

A Trip To The Other Planet, for example, is from Sapir, a school on the border of the Gaza Strip where the students were learning and making their film in very difficult circumstances. The Visit, meanwhile, is from the more ‘alternative’ Minshar for Art school. “Artistic quality remains the key requirement but I also wanted to showcase diversity.”

That is also evident in the high proportion of women film-makers on show.

“This year we had a big wave of women directors,” says Barenholtz. “Most of the films in the feature competition are by women. In the shorts, it’s around 50/50. Another trend this year is the growing length of films. “Many of the shorts this year are closer to 30 minutes. There’s a reason for that. The directors want to make films that are a stepping stone to features.

“Despite this being the age of YouTube, they don’t want to make films solely for the internet. They want to make cinema. And winning in Jerusalem can really act as that boost for those directors moving onto their first feature.”

Shorts highlights

Dear God
Dirs Guy Nattiv, Erez Tadmor.
13mins. Independent
From regular collaborators Nattiv and Tadmor, directors on features Strangers and Magic Men, Dear God stars Lior
Ashkenazi and Reymond Amsalem in a poetic vision of Jerusalem told through the eyes of a guard at the Wailing Wall.

Paris On The Water
Dir Hadas Ayalon. 30mins.
Tel Aviv University, film and television department
Miriam Zohar and Ilan Dar star in Ayalon’s Student Oscar winner about a frustrated former movie star who finally has a chance to return to the big screen.

Smile, And The World Will Smile Back
Dirs Al-Haddad family, Ehab Tarabieh, Yoav Gross. 20mins. B’Tselem
This Berlin Golden Bear nominated documentary is about a young boy in a Palestinian Hebron neighbourhood who films Israeli soldiers searching his home.

Dir Netalie Braun. 30mins. Independent
Vow follows an obese 11-year-old girl dealing with sexual abuse, in a moving story from documentary-maker Braun.

Has Anyone Seen Eyal Nurich?
Dir Shira Porat. 15mins. Tel Aviv University, film and television department
Fill The Void star Hadas Yaron plays a young female counsellor in this coming-of-age story set in a timeless forest.

A Trip To The Other Planet
Dir Tom Kless. 15mins.
Sapir Academic College
An animated portrait of Jewish writer and Auschwitz survivor Yehiel De-Nur.

The Visit
Dir Inbar Horesh. 27mins. Minshar for Art
Cannes Cinefondation entry The Visit follows a daughter’s visit to her
father’s nursing home.