Friday, July 13, 2007

Jerusalem nightlife revs up and gets reel for Film Fest

Even though the Jerusalem Film Festival
ends this weekend, it's been a revelation to see the throngs of secular Israelis drawn here by international cinema screenings and the art film scene.
Old-timers say it's like the good old days of Mayor Teddy Kollek, before ultra-orthodox strictures became such a dampening presence to night life in central Jerusalem. The city now bustles when the sun goes down, as swarms of students and middle class film-lovers trek in from the suburbs and Tel Aviv.(Such a contrast to the usual assortment of religious conservatives, tourists, bureaucrats, diplomats, journalists, and Jerusalem syndrome wackos that normally mill around West Jerusalem after dark.) There's live music and impromptu sidewalk beer gardens that cater to a bohemian, artsy crowd. An open-air moonlight cinema can accommodate 2000 people on bleachers, and there's half a dozen smaller screen venues. The redesigned Cinematheque and film archive is state-of-the-art. What a contrast to last summer when the Lebanese war cast a shadow over everything and refugees from the north walked around dazed between clumps of Jewish tourists from North America, all happy to be out of katyusha range.
The films run the gamut from avant garde shorts to earnest documentaries and Hollywood animation sensations: everything from Ratatouille to the Clash's Joe Strummer. There are seminars, contests, lectures, and even a double art installation projected onto both sides of the concrete security wall at Abu Dis.
One intriguing slice-of-life documentary by Disco Dog Productions of London was called "Slim Chance"
It examined weighty issues from a new angle. A group of women from warring communities who share a common struggle: fighting flab.
Director Yael Luttwak gathered fourteen women – Israelis, Palestinians, Bedouins, and settlers of American origin.

Ichsan, a TV actor and director from Ramallah, meets Dasy, a secular Israeli who practices yoga to deal with the violence. Ariella, a settler who was raised Catholic and begins the project with considerable doubts about the Palestinian participants, finds an affinity with Amal, a Bedouin from Beersheba, who also covers her head and is devoted to raising her family. Israeli Aviva finds that she comes from the same culture as the Palestinian women.
While the common desire to lose weight quickly reveals the humanity of those involved, the moment Hamas wins the elections to the Palestine National Council, weight issues are forgotten and political questions divide the women once again. The vitality of the participants coupled by the film’s wise direction and editing, make A Slim Peace a sparkling and unique allegory of the current situation.

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