This past year at the Sarasota Film Festival, we programmed a sidebar of films called Emerging Jewish Voices which tapped into artists with some new perspectives about Judaism, Israeli life and culture, and the changes in identity that seem to be happening throughout the Jewish diaspora. The films themselves ranged from new work like Dror Shaul’s award-winning Sweet Mud to Michael Tully’s Silver Jew to Jason Hutt’s phenomenal Orthodox Stance to Joseph Madmony and David Ofek’s tragedy Melanoma My Love all the way to master Amos Gitai’s News From Home, News From House, a marvel of a film that uses history as a way of looking forward toward reconciliation among the diverse populations in the Middle East. The series was very popular with our audiences, and assembling it really piqued my interest in Israeli film making today and what seems to be an emerging film making community; Sure, Romania may be getting all the ink (I never thought I would write that sentence), but Israeli films are hot hot hot.
Fast forward to May, and I watched from my seat on the sidelines as Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret’s Meduzot (Jellyfish) won the Caméra D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. For me, the Caméra D’Or has always been the most interesting prize at Cannes, announcing the arrival of artists and filmmakers of consistent quality and imagination, and so I am usually pre-disposed to seeking out the films that are recognized with this prize. But couple that with some of Keret’s previous credits (his story Kneller’s Happy Campers was the inspiration for Goran Dukic’s Wristcutters: A Love Story, one of my favorite Sarasota FF films of recent years) and the emergence of this film among so many quality Israeli films, and we have all the trappings of a highly-anticipated movie.
Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen on the set of Meduzot (Jellyfish)
Again, Variety gives an absolute rave:
“The Cannes Critics Week preem of Jellyfish marks another triumph for Israel, strongly represented on the Croisette this year with three films in official sections. Debuting feature co-helmers Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, a couple already separately acclaimed as fiction writers, make a fluid transition to film with this tightly constructed, cleverly stylized, serio-comic ensemble piece. Highly cinematic, with a mood of existential loneliness leavened by magical whimsy, its different story strands share themes including the need for affection and the struggle to communicate. Endearing pic should wash ashore at many festivals, with niche distribution and broadcast likely in some markets.”— Alissa Simon, Variety
Zeitgeist Films, one of my absolute favorite companies in all of American cinema, has picked up the movie for theatrical release in the United States, and their imprimatur on the film speaks volumes to me. Two plus two equals four, folks. This one is going to be good. I can’t wait to get my eyes on it.
Meduzot (Jellyfish) is playing at the 2007 Toronto Film Festival in the Contemporary World Cinema section.
Tomorrow: Harmony Korine’s Mister Lonely