Film fest features various Israeli films


The Israeli films Aviva My Love and The Band’s Visit and a documentary short by local filmmaker and scholar Pier Marton are among the films to be shown at this year’s annual St. Louis International Film Festival.

St. Louis International Film Festival started Nov. 8 and runs through Sunday, Nov. 18. The festival offers films from around the world, including feature films, documentaries and short film. It is considered one of the official venues for short films, like last year’s Oscar winner West Bank Story, to qualify for the Academy Awards.


On Sunday, Nov. 18 at 1 p.m., Aviva My Love (Aviva Ahuvati) will be shown at the Plaza Frontenac Cinema, with a repeat showing at 3:30 p.m. at the same location.

This Israeli drama won a host of awards at the 2006 Israeli Film Academy Awards, including Best Feature, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Aviva My Love won the Best Actress and Best Screenplay awards at the 2006 Jerusalem Film Festival Wolgin awards.

Set in the small northern Israeli town of Tiberias, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, Aviva My Love focuses on poor but beautiful Aviva, the hard-working central figure of a struggling family, with an unemployed husband, troubled children and an unstable mother. Despite her hard work, life hardly gives Aviva a break. When her dentist warmly tells her how he has known her family, and Aviva herself, since she was a little child, and talks about a discount on his services, it is really only a prelude to a request for sexual favors. The incident sets the tone for how everyone takes advantage of her. Aviva only really confides in her sister Anita. While Anita is not much help with the family, she does introduce Aviva to Oded, an author who offers his help as editor to help her achieve her treasured ambition to become a writer herself and escape her poverty.

While the story might seem melodramatic to some audience members, it does offer a rare look at modern life in Israel, away from the big cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and does feature nice acting performances. The film had been a contender for this summer’s Jewish Film Festival, so this is a rare chance for local audiences to catch this popular drama. Aviva My Love is in Hebrew with English subtitles.

Another Israeli film, The Band’s Visit (Bikur Ha-Tizmoret), will be shown on Sunday Nov. 18 at 6:15 p.m. at Plaza Frontenac, making it simple to catch both Israeli features.

The Band’s Visit is a darkly comic tale about visiting musicians, a brass band whose members are from the Egyptian police force, who travel to Israel to play at the inaugural ceremony of an Arab arts center.

However, there is a mix-up and no one is there to greet them at the airport when they arrive from Egypt. Trying to find their own way, they soon find themselves lost in a foreign city.

The Band’s Visit was picked as Israel’s official submission for the 2008 Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Language Film category. Unfortunately, the Oscars organization disqualified it because more than half the film’s dialogue is in English rather than Arabic and Hebrew. There was a protest and unsuccessful appeal but ultimately, Israel submitted another film, Beaufort, instead. So, this may be local audiences’ only chance to see this excellent film on a big screen.

But these Israeli feature films are not the only film selections that readers might find interesting.

One of these is a short film by Washington University Film Studies professor and local filmmaker Pier Marton. None the Less is a four-minute film about renowned Torah scholar Aviva Zornberg, who speaks on language, knowledge and Judaism. The film will be shown as part of the festival’s Documentary Shorts Program tonight at 7:30 p.m. at Webster University.

Pier Marton is a video maker/new media artist and writer. He has taught courses in video production at Washington University for the past 10 years, as well as at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, UCLA, the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, Carnegie Mellon University and Indiana University. His works are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, the Beaubourg in Paris, the National Gallery of Canada, and the Japan Victor Corporation Archives in Japan. Marton, son of a Holocaust survivor, is also working on a film project exploring the experiences of European-born children of Holocaust survivors and their re-discovery of Jewish traditions. He attends congregation Bais Abraham in University City.

Other films at the festival that readers may find of interest include documentaries on the Middle East and the current conflict. Taxi To the Dark Side, a documentary that focuses on a fatal encounter in Afghanistan between a taxi driver and American soldiers, won the Best Documentary Feature prize at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, and was written, directed, and produced by Alex Gibney, who did the Oscar nominated documentary Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room. The film is showing Saturday, Nov. 17 at 8:15 p.m. at the Steinberg Auditorium of Washington University.

The St. Louis International Film Festival takes place at several venues during its ten-day span, including Plaza Frontenac Cinema, Tivoli Theatre, St. Louis Art Museum, Webster University and COCA in University City. Schedules and tickets are available at the venues, and more information is available at hosting organization Cinema St. Louis’ website at or by calling them at 314-289-4150.