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TIFF to feature many Jewish and Israeli films

Tags: Arts Gett The Farewell Party The Policeman’s House The Trial of Viviane Amsalem The Wanted 18 This is My Land TIFF Toronto International Film Festival
A scene from The Farewell Party

TORONTO — Two films from Israel and several anticipated titles from Jewish Canadian directors will première at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, running Sept. 4 to 14.

Gett, the Trial of Viviane Amsalem and The Farewell Party are the festival’s Israeli selections. Both deal with controversial issues. 

Gett is about an Israeli woman hoping to finalize a divorce in a country where the husband is the only one who can give it. Her mission to obtain a get is the driving force of the heated and provocative drama about Israel’s marriage laws. 

After the film screens on Sept. 9, Janice Stein, director of the Munk School of Global Affairs and a conflict management expert, will speak about the drama in a Q&A session. 

In The Farewell Party, an elderly couple living in a Jerusalem retirement home deal with major setbacks when the husband decides to assist in a friend’s suicide. The drama, in Hebrew with English subtitles, is being touted as an Israeli cousin to the Oscar-winning Amour

Meanwhile, TIFF will see the world premiere of an Israeli short, also made in Palestine, entitled The Policeman’s House. In it, director Mich’ael Zupraner looks at his life as an Israeli Jew living in the West Bank. 

The Israel-Palestine conflict also brews on the festival screens in the documentaries This is My Land and The Wanted 18

This is My Land, a French doc from Israeli director Tamara Erde, looks at how six schools in Israel and Palestine teach the history of the region. Erde, who grew up attending an Israeli public school, visited a variety of classrooms for the film, including a refugee camp  run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), as well as an Israeli school with both Arab and Jewish students. 

The Wanted 18, co-produced by the National Film Board of Canada, explores a true story from the first intifadah. 

Directed by Palestinian artist Amer Shomali and Canadian director Paul Cowan, it tells the story of the Israeli army’s pursuit of 18 cows from a West Bank farm. The film uses stop-motion animation and interviews with various sides of this unusual but compelling story.

Atop the gripping Israel-themed selections, many Jewish Canadian directors get to screen their latest films at TIFF, where they will be world premieres.

Oscar-nominated director Jason Reitman (who directed Juno) will introduce his latest drama, Men, Women & Children. The title, set for theatrical release in October, deals with many stories about people falling prey to modern technology and the Internet. Based on a bestselling novel, the film stars Adam Sandler, Jennifer Garner, Dean Norris and Ansel Elgort. 

Meanwhile, The Trotsky director Jacob Tierney unveils his latest comedy-drama, Preggoland. The film stars Sonja Bennett as Ruth, a live-at-home woman in her 30s who lies about being pregnant. Preggoland also features James Caan in a supporting role as Ruth’s father.

Halifax-based animator and director Andrea Dorfman returns to the festival with Heartbeat. Featuring the debut performance of singer-songwriter Tanya Davis, the music drama tells the story of a miserable young woman who tries to jumpstart her life by returning to her musical roots. 

Further, Canadian talents Barry Avrich and Sol Friedman have their newest shorts tapped for the festival. Avrich’s Red Alert is a comic piece about a young redheaded girl, played by the director’s daughter, Sloan. She tries to investigate whether or not people with her hair colour will become extinct.

Friedman’s animated short, Day 40, presented as part of the Short Cuts Canada program, is a revisionist look at the Noah’s Ark story. Here, the director looks at the flood from the animals’ perspective.

Other festival titles to deal with Jewish themes and characters include:

Felix and Meira, a French-Canadian film about a married Orthodox Jew in Montreal who falls in love with a secular man. 

Labyrinth of Lies, about a young prosecutor in postwar Germany who becomes entangled in a conspiracy to cover up Nazi crimes. The film is in German, with English subtitles.

Phoenix, from acclaimed German director Christian Petzold, tells the story of a concentration camp survivor looking for her husband after the war – even though he may have betrayed her to the Nazis.

The Warren, an 11-minute American short about the Israel Defence Forces raiding a refugee camp that escalates beyond the point of no return. 

To check show times and buy tickets for this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, please visit www.tiff.net 

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