With three Israeli films competing at this year's 60th Cannes International Film Festival, running May 16-27, as well as several Israeli student films, Israel Film Fund director Katriel Schory credits the country's success to the "strength and power of our stories."
Last-minute entry Tehilim
The number of Israeli works in the competition this year is a major accomplishment, considering that more than 1,650 submissions were vying for a screening. Schory believes the credit goes to the stories and directors, as well as to the reputation gained by Israeli producers as professionals able to deliver films on budget, on time and with a quality threshold.
Israel will be represented in the main competition -- alongside movies by filmmakers such as the Coen brothers and David Fincher -- with "Tehilim," from French Israeli director Raphael Nadjari. Made at "the last minute with little money," the film tells of 17-year-old Menachem Frankel, who is eager to leave his Jerusalem home and experience youthful adventures, despite the disapproval of his father, who wishes to mold Menachem into a serious, devout adult. But when his father disappears after an accident, Menachem, who thought he could forge his own way in the world, struggles to deal with the loss -- and in the process is forced to grow up.
The film stars Israeli actors Michael Moshonov, Sasson Gabai and Ronit Elkabetz.
Competing in the Camera d'Or category is Eran Kolirin's "Orchestra Visit," a film initiated by Schory's Film Fund from a five-page synopsis. Also starring Gabai and Elkabetz, "Orchestra Visit" is set in the late 1990s and tells the story of an Egyptian police band invited to give a concert at the dedication of an Israeli-Egyptian cultural center, but as a result of several misunderstandings, ends up spending the night at a remote Israeli desert town, hosted by a local kiosk owner.
"It's about human relations; it's very heartwarming," said Schory, who helped shepherd the film over the course of three years. "Two sections in Cannes wanted it and fought for it because it's a beautiful, small, sensitive film."
"Jellyfish," or "Meduzot" in Hebrew, from hip Israeli writer Etgar Keret and his wife and actress, Shira Geffen, tells the stories of three different women in Tel Aviv: a waitress lost in life, a newlywed and a Filipino caretaker brokering a difficult family situation. The film offers a "very special and different flavor" of the city, said Schory. "Each woman is in her own world, with a bit of loneliness and melancholy."
"This country is full of stories, some of them very powerful, with tremendous energy," said Schory, who has been producing films for more than 30 years. "That, with the talent of young Israeli directors who really mastered and learned how to tell their stories in a way that communicates with the audiences.
"It took a long time to re-introduce Israeli cinema," Schory said. "Six or seven years ago, I had to chase all the directors of the festival in the corridors and beg them to come and see Israeli movies. Now it's the other way around."