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Amazing lineup of Jewish-interest films at TIFF

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Stephen Dorf stars in Zaytoun

This year’s edition of the Toronto International Film Festival, which starts on Sept. 6, has an amazing lineup of Jewish-interest, Israeli and Mideast films.

A sampler:

Zaytoun, directed by Eran Riklis and starring Stephen Dorf, is set in Lebanon during Israel’s invasion in 1982. It is the unlikely story of an Israeli pilot who meets a 12-year-old Palestinian after his plane is shot down over Beirut. The boy is initially mistrustful of the downed Israeli, but as they get to know each other, they form something of a friendship.

  In The Attack, by Ziad Doueiri of France, an Arab surgeon living in Tel Aviv discovers a dark secret about his wife in the aftermath of a Palestinian suicide bombing. Best known for his award-winning film West Beirut, Doueiri was a camera assistant to Quentin Tarantino in Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction.

  Michael Mayer’s Out in the Dark is about life and love in the shadows. Nimer, a Palestinian graduate student from the West Bank, meets, Roy, an Israeli lawyer. As their relationship blossoms, Nimer confronts the harsh reality of an Arab society that rejects his sexual identity and a Jewish society that rejects his nationality.

Dror Moreh’s The Gatekeepers is a documentary focusing on six former directors of the Shin Bet, Israel’s domestic intelligence agency. These hardened men reflect on their contributions to Israel’s war against terrorism. Safe Room, by Canadian filmmaker Elizabeth Lazebnik, is a semi-autobiographical account of an ex-Israeli  who lived through the 1991 Gulf War, when Iraq fired 39 Scud missiles into Israel and terrorized the country.

Evgeny Ruman’s Igor & the Cranes’ Journey turns on the challenges that an 11-year-old Jewish boy and his father face  as they immigrate from Russia to Israel.

In Eagles, by Dror Sabo, two elderly Israeli reservists alienated from Israeli society embark on a vigilante campaign to bring justice and respect to the streets of Tel Aviv.

Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void unfolds in Tel Aviv as a young woman grapples with a highly charged quandary. Shira, the youngest daughter in a chassidic family, is engaged to be married. But joy crumbles into despair when her marriage is postponed due to an untimely event. As a result, Shira must choose between her heart’s desire and her family duty.

Dan Setton, in State 194, documents the unsuccessful quest by the Palestinian Authority to gain recognition of Palestinian statehood at the United Nations in 2012. Setton, an Israeli, gained unprecedented access to Palestinian Authority leaders, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, who has attempted to plant the seeds of statehood in incremental steps.

The Palestinians are featured in several other films.

 In Anais Barbeau-Lavalette’s Inch’Allah, a young Canadian physician working in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank discovers the Arab-Israeli dispute on a personal and visceral level.

Annemarie Jacir’s When I Saw You takes place in a Palestinian refugee camp shortly after Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, and is the tale of an 11-year-old boy, a free spirit, who dreams of better days somewhere else.

A World Not Ours, by Mahdi Fleifel, is filmed in a Palestinian refugee camp in southern Lebanon. The director, a Palestinian raised in that camp and now living in Denmark, reconnects with old friends, who speak of their lives and vent their grievances.

The internal rebellions that rocked the Arab world are the subject of two films: Hala Alabdalla’s As If We Were Catching a Cobra and Yousry Nasrallah’s After the Battle. Alabdalla’s documentary focuses on Egypt and Syria, while Nasrallah’s feature film is exclusively about the revolution in Egypt.

Ruba Nadda’s Inescapable is a thriller is about a Syrian expatriate who returns to Damascus to look for his missing daughter amid chaos in Syria.

Argo, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, returns to the 1979 hostage crisis in Iran. Iranian militants storm the U.S. embassy in Tehran, causing the flight of six Americans. A CIA agent devises a daring plan to get them out of the country before they are found and captured.

The Reluctant Fundamentalist, directed by Canadian Mira Nair, is a political thriller based on a bestseller of the same name. A Pakistani Muslim who has achieved success on Wall Street finds himself himself embroiled in a conflict between the allure of the American dream and the call of his homeland.

Cate Shortland’s Lore is set in postwar Germany as a young woman, the scion of imprisoned Nazis, leads her siblings across a war-torn country. During the trip, she meets a Jewish refugee, an encounter that forces her to reassess her hateful views.

Hannah Arendt, a biopic from the German director Margarethe von Trotta, is about a renowned German-Jewish philosopher who sparked controversy in the wake of the Eichmann trial in Jerusalem. In this film, Arendt, a refugee from Nazi Germany, struggles with the pain of the past and the turmoil of the present.

Barry Avrich’s documentary, Show Stopper: The Theatrical Life of Garth Drabinsky, is about the rise and fall of a dazzling but reckless Canadian show-business entrepreneur.

In The Last White Knight, Canadian filmmaker and former civil rights worker Paul Saltzman goes back to Mississippi to meet a racist who physically attacked him in the 1960s. Saltzman’s documentary is about the new South, the old South and the possibilities of reconciliation.

For more information, visit http://tiff.net/thefestival.

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