On 17 July 2016, the 33rd Jerusalem Film Festival will open in the Jerusalem Cinematheque. In 2002, when I sat in the Sultan's Pool, close to the Cinematheque, in the open air, and watched the film of the Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, Talk to Her, which opened the Festival that year, I knew that one of these days I would purchase a camera and begin to make films. This film, together with a number of other films, made a deep impression on me and set me thinking in cinematic terms. Added to this was the superlative experience of a Jerusalem summer in the Sultan's Pool amphitheater, built by the Ottoman Sultan, Suleiman the First, in 1536, and you will get a uniquely impressive result.
This year, too, the Film Festival in Jerusalem will open with Almodovar's film Julieta, in the presence of the stars of the film Emma Suarez and Daniel Grau. This will be the third time that a film of Almodovar will open the Festival, the first time being his film All About My Mother in 1999.
The film is based on three short stories of the Canadian novelist Alice Munro, and follows the life of a woman named Julieta in various periods of her life. The film is a cinematographic celebration which combines virtuoso direction and spectacular aesthetics with exemplary acting performances and a sweeping soundtrack by Alberto Iglesias.
At the age of 18 Antia leaves her mother's house without an explanation or leaving a trace. For years Julieta tries to find her daughter, but she gradually leads an independent life for herself. At precisely the moment when she has the opportunity to begin anew - in a different place and with a new love, and readiness to give up the dream of seeing her daughter again – she is confronted with a new piece of the puzzle of the mysterious disappearance which sends her on a journey deep into the recesses of her memories. The leading role of Julieta is played by two actresses - Emma Suarez plays her in her later years, and Adriana Ugarte was chosen to play the young Julieta. Rossi de Palma, known for her participation in Almodavar films, makes a guest appearance.
I have never met Almodovar, and I hope that one day I shall meet him and will tell him about my love of the cinema, culture and Jerusalem. Why Jerusalem? Because I would like to one day direct a film with Almodovar in Jerusalem, my beloved city. The city of Jerusalem, which on June 5 celebrated its liberation in the Six day War (1967), has developed greatly in the past few years and it seems to me that it is actually the hub of the world. A city containing three major religions and drawing messianic and other people, part of whom are captivated by its magic and others who in time suffer from the syndrome known as "The Jerusalem Syndrome" and then seek to redeem the world from its suffering, and to this end they roam in its streets and try to influence passers-by with their beliefs.
Combine now my knowledge and my familiarity with the Jerusalemites, with the abilities of Almodovar, the colorfulness infusing his films, and perhaps, in all humility, I wish to add also my abilities as photographer and would-be director, and perhaps you will get a Jerusalem salad with a Spanish seasoning. If I were to meet Almodovar, I would congratulate him for his Festival film, but mainly because of the fact that he did not offer any objection to his film being presented in Jerusalem, despite the boycott of the State of Israel. This is culture at its very best, and perhaps this is also personal courage. Those of you who know me know full well that I am sure that culture is the bridge that is likely to save our world from needless wars. Add to this, education received at home, good books and cinema, and we have a winning combination.
Over 200 films will be screened at the festival, featuring the cream of the year's Israeli and international harvest. The majority of the films will be screened in eight prize-bearing competition frameworks. In addition, there will be meetings with leading film personalities from Israel and the world, parties and musical events together with workshops for professionals in the field of film activity.
This year the Festival will see the launching of a new international contest designed to celebrate outstanding cinematic achievements throughout the world and to encourage the distribution of quality films in Israel. The contest will include 8 to 10 full-length films from various countries, reflecting a variety of cinematographic styles, the main criterion for their selection being their cinematic-artistic vision. In the framework of the contest, a prize of 20,000 dollars will be awarded to the best film - by courtesy of the New Jersey-based Wilf Family Foundation.
In addition, to mark the twentieth anniversary of the establishment of the Wilf Park in central Jerusalem, there will be established this year a summer cinema complex in the park, containing a sophisticated open-air auditorium together with an interactive movie project for children. The complex will offer a wide range of quality activities for a variety of target audiences.
For those of you planning to come to Jerusalem I whole heartedly recommend that you visit the Jerusalem Cinematheque, and tour the surrounding neighborhoods, Yemin Moshe and Mishkenot Shaananim, and visit the The First Station complex which is also within a short walking distance from there. I have no doubt that you will absorb some of the fragrance of my adulthood in this city, and will surely begin to envision the film which I wish to direct with Almodovar. Until then, you can also enjoy the singing of my friend David Ben Reuven, in his song Jerusalem Rock, perhaps the only rock-and-roll song in English about Jerusalem.