Michel Hazanavicius and Louis Garrel attend with opening night screening of Redoubtable.


The 34th edition of the Jerusalem Film Festival kicked-off on Thursday night with an open-air screening of Michel Hazanavicius’s Jean-Luc Godard comedy Redoubtable and a stripped down opening ceremony aimed at keeping the spotlight on cinema

 JFF’s opening nights in the Sultan’s Pool amphitheatre in the shadow of the Old City walls have been politically-charged in recent years, thanks mainly to the presence of Israel’s controversial Culture Minister Miri Regev.

The former Israeli Defence Force spokeswoman’s views on how cultural funding should be redistributed away from the traditional cultural hubs of cities like Tel Aviv and not be meted out to works criticising the country have made her deeply unpopular within the country’s left-leaning cinema world.

Jeers for Regev

There were no politicians on stage on Thursday evening apart from the city’s mayor Nir Barkat, who handed Hazanavicius and Redoubtable star Louis Garrel a special award marking their presence at the festival. 

Instead the festival played a series of short films in which institutional figures led by the Israeli President and the First Lady Reuven and Nechama Rivlin, discussed their love of cinema and the Jerusalem Film Festival and in some cases their favourite films.

Barkat professed to being an admirer of West Side Story while Regev cited Menahem Golan’s 1977 film Operation Thunderbolt, re-enacting the Entebbe airport hostage liberation of 1976. Her pre-filmed segment played out to boos and jeers.

The only live political comment of the evening came from Garrel who cheekily commented, “I hope you will not like the film [Redoubtable] like the way you like Miri Regev,” he said to applause.

Allusions to the festival’s late founder Lia Van Leer and her right-hand woman Aviva Meirom met with warm applause.

The festival continues on Friday with screenings of Lumiere!, West Of The Jordan River and the 1967 classic The Samourai, which kicks off a Jean-Pierre Melville retrospective curated by former French cinematheque chief Serge Toubiana, who arrives in Jerusalem as the newly appointed president of Unifrance.

The Israeli feature competition will also opens on Friday evening with Dana Goldberg and Efrat Mishori’s Death Of A Poetess, about two women – one a famed Israeli researcher, the other a nurse hailing from Jaffa’s Arab community, whose lives become unexpectedly entwined in a strange turn of events.

Cannes titles

Redoutable is among a number of Cannes titles screening at JFF this year including Bruno Dumont’s Jeannette, The Childhood Of Joan of Arc and Arnaud Desplechin’s Ismael’s Ghost, which play in the Masters section, as well as Fellipe Gamarano Barbosa’s Gabriel And The Mountain, François Ozon’s The Double Lover and Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled, which are contenders in the International Competition.

Artistic director Elad Samorzik Samorzik says this is by chance: “We’re selecting all year round, starting with Locarno and finishing at Cannes. We go all over the place… Locarno, San Sebastian, Venice, Toronto, Berlin, Sundance, SXSW. Our aim is to give our audience the possible line-up in terms of what is out there. It can be a balancing act as we’re never quite sure what will come up.”

He added he was happy to see the return of the international competition for a second year. 

“It got off to an auspicious start last year with the win for Albert Serra’s Death of Louis XIV,” he says. “And film-makers have been more that keen to see their films play in the line-up.” 

Other titles competing in the section include Ferenc Torok’s 1945, about the inhabitants of a small Hungarian village forced to face up their part in the holocaust when two Orthodox Jewish men turn-up out of the blue. 

The film, which premiered at Berlin earlier this year, is also in the running for the cross-section Jewish Experience award. “For me it is the best film of the year tackling the Jewish experience,” says Samorzik.

Photo credit: Dor Kedmi