Thursday, June 6, 2019

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Shooting Life

I’m pleased to be covering the 7th Annual Israel Film Center Festival at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, which runs June 3rd-12th.

Shooting Life
Directed by David Kreiner
Screening June 5 at 6:15pm

Filmmaking is an art that can capture many things. Watching a life on television or in the cinema that looks nothing like what someone experiences can inspire those in small towns far from the rest of civilization to dream of one day escaping and becoming part of a world that more closely resembles that ideological aim. Recording events on camera can serve an entirely different purpose, both documenting what is happening as it unfolds and also helping to glean unexpected observations and conclusions from examining life through a more reserved or intimate lens.

After a divorce, Yigal (Mickey Leon) arrives in the city of Sderot to teach filmmaking to high school students. He quickly learns that his class finds little motivation in their everyday lives, which are boring save for the frequent sounding of a red alert alarm that indicates a rocket on its way and the need to seek shelter immediately. As Yigal gets his students to open up and see that they can create extraordinary work with nothing more than a video camera and an interest in their subject matter, he confronts resistance from the principal (Evelin Hagoel) about the sentiments he is stirring up in the students by challenging them to be inquisitive.

Yigal, whose complicated relationship with his daughter who would much rather spend time with her mother and her new boyfriend is indeed interesting, is far from the most worthwhile character in a film full of dynamic personalities. Among his featured students are Libby (Noa Astanjelove), an aspiring singer whose religious parents want to keep her from being enlisted in the army, Ohad (Matan Lax), who has built a relationship with a police officer after the departure of his father, and Tal (Eyal Shikratzi), whose father lies unconscious in a hospital bed after being injured in a rocket attack.

These characters and stories all feel vibrant and true, enhanced from any sort of teen melodrama both by the performances and the film’s overall tone. There is plenty of comedy infused into an otherwise serious film that features a particularly resounding dramatic finish. It’s a three-dimensional portrait of an Israeli city known specifically for its proximity to Gaza and the frequent barrage of rockets its citizens endure, an endearing tribute to its residents with an excitable and refreshing energy.


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