Ephraim Kishon’s 2004 “Turn Left at the End of World”
Despite financial problems, the 11th Jewish Film Festival Berlin got off to a good start.
“Eleven years ago, I would have never believed that this festival would have been able to grow to such a size,” festival director Nicola Galliner told audiences during the opening.
The festival was nearly this year cancelled due to a massive budget deficit after the festival’s primary source of revenue, Berlin’s Jewish Community, slashed funding by two thirds. The [German] Federation for Democracy and Tolerance came to the rescue.
“Thereafter others, such as the Central Council of Jews in Germany and private individuals, such as the head of Berlin’s Jewish community, Albert Meyer suit,” Galliner said in a recent broadcast on Austrian radio.
Despite its financial woes, Europe’s oldest Jewish film festival is bigger and better than ever before.
“Though we had to cut back on foreign invitations […] at least we succeeded in inviting some of them”, Galliner proudly told her audience.
Reflections on Jewish Tradition
Twenty-two films from 10-countries are being screened over a 10-day period. “Of course films from Israel make up half of the program”, Galliner told reporters at a press conference.
“However, also countries not known for either their film industries or for their Jewish themes are well represented.
“The festival is a way for Jews and non-Jews to get to know the different worlds surrounding Jews, their humor, tragedies, ways of life,” Galliner said.
“The importance of the festival is emphasised by the fact that about half of the films being screened here are making their German [and some even their world] premieres,” according to Galliner.
The festival’s international character is clearly visible through the support of the Australian and Norwegian embassies, whose countries are not only proud contributors, but also sponsors of the festival.
Prior to the screening of “The Dunera Boys”, Ambassador Pamela Fayle of Australia passionately told her audience about the contribution that Jewish immigrants, many forced to Australia by Britain as “enemies of war”, made to her country.
“About half of the men shipped to Australia aboard the freighter Dunera decided to stay in Australia, after the war. Many of them became the outstanding citizens that moulded […] our country’s cultural scene - including its fledgling film industry,” Fayle said.
Though the film is over 20 years old, it is only making its Germany premiere at this year’s festival. A restored copy of the film was prepared especially for the festival in Berlin.
EJP learned that many distributors had gone to great lengths to deliver special copies of their films to the festival – “an indication of the festival’s importance,” according to Galliner.
Most of the films are portrayals of diversity, tolerance and history. Religion, nostalgia, homosexuality, the Israeli-Arab conflict, emigration, obesity and inter-cultural neighbourliness are some of the themes that reflect the festival’s motto “Heimat, Heimweh, Hejmisch Sein” (Homeland, Nostalgia, Hominess).
Feature films, short films and documentaries from Spain, Germany, Israel, Norway, France, Hungary and Tunisia are being screened during the festival.
Ephraim Kishon’s 1964 classic “Sallah Shabati” or the 2004 Israeli production “Turn Left at the End of World” are examples of films dealing with Israel’s immigration challenges.
The 2004 documentary, “Keep Not Silent” focuses on lesbian Orthodox woman and their struggle between emotional needs and religion.
Norway’s contribution, the 2003 production “The Man Who Loved Haugesund” and the 2004 US documentary “Don’t call it Heimweh” deal with the scars left by WWII.
Spain’s 2005 comedy “Only Human” and the documentary-in-progress, “Nadia’s Friends” deal with tolerance and integration.
Germany has been experiencing a recent boom in the screenings of Israeli films and films focusing on Jewish themes. Though most films still find it hard to attract a mainstream audience, “it is just a matter of time that they will”, according to German producer Daniel Levy.
|End of the World|
Actresses: Liraz Charchi and Rotem Abohav