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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘film’

Documentary on Oldest Shoah Survivor Wins Oscar a Week after Her Death

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

A documentary about the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor won an Oscar one week after she died.

Alice Herz-Sommer, who died in London on Feb. 23 at the age of 110, was the subject of “The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” which won the Academy Award for documentary short Sunday night.

The Prague-born Herz-Sommer, a concert pianist, was a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

In accepting the Oscar, the film’s director, Malcolm Clarke, said that he was struck by Herz-Sommer’s “extraordinary capacity for joy” and “amazing capacity for forgiveness.”

World’s Oldest Holocaust Survivor Stars in Oscar-Nominated Film

Friday, February 14th, 2014

In her 110 years, Alice Herz-Sommer has been an accomplished concert pianist and teacher, a wife and mother — and a prisoner in Theresienstadt.

Now she is the star of an Oscar-nominated documentary showing her  indomitable optimism, cheerfulness and vitality despite all the upheavals and horrors she faced in the 20th century.

“The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life,” a 38-minute film up for best short documentary at the Academy Awards to be handed out next month, begins in her native Prague. Alice — everyone from presidents on down calls her Alice — was born on Nov. 26, 1903 into an upper-class Jewish family steeped in literature and classical music.

A friend and frequent visitor was “Uncle Franz,” surname Kafka, along with composer Gustav Mahler and other luminaries.

Trained as a pianist from childhood, Alice made her concert debut as a teenager, married, had a son and seemed destined for the pleasant, cultured life of a prosperous Middle European. But everything changed in 1939 when Hitler, casually tearing up the Munich accord of a year earlier, marched his troops into Prague and brought with him his anti-Semitic edicts.

Her public concert career was over, yet the family managed to hang on in an increasingly restrictive existence in the Czech capital.

In 1943, however, Alice and her husband, their 6-year old son Raphael (Rafi), and Alice’s mother were loaded on the transport to Theresienstadt. The fortress town some 30 miles from Prague was touted by Nazi propaganda as the model ghetto — “The Fuhrer’s gift to the Jews,” with its own orchestra, theater group and even soccer teams.

With the full extent of the Holocaust still largely unknown, Alice took her deportation with relative equanimity, as was typical for many European Jews.

“If they have an orchestra in Terezin, how bad can it be?” she recalled asking, using the Czech name of the town.

Alice soon found out, as her mother and husband perished there. Alice was saved by her musical gifts and became a member of the camp orchestra and gave more than 100 recitals.

But her main focus was on Rafi, trying to make his life bearable, to escape the constant hunger and infuse him with her own hopefulness.

“What she did reminded me of Roberto Benigni in the Italian film ‘Life is Beautiful,’ “ said Malcolm Clarke, director of “The Lady in Number 6.” “He plays an Italian Jew who pretends to his young son that life in the camp is some kind of elaborate game for the boy’s special amusement.”

Liberated in 1945, Alice and Rafi returned to Prague but four years later left for Israel. There she taught at the Jerusalem Academy of Music and performed in concerts frequently attended by Golda Meir, while Rafi became a concert cellist.

Alice said she loved her 37 years living in Israel, but when Rafi, her only child, decided to move to London, she went with him. A few years later Rafi died at 65, but the mother remained in her small flat, No. 6, in a North London apartment house.

Nearly all of the film was shot over a two-year period inside the flat dominated by an old Steinway piano on which Alice played four hours each day, to the enjoyment of her neighbors.

Originally the filmmakers considered “Dancing Under the Gallows” as the film’s title before going with “The Lady in Number 6.”

It was a wise decision, for the film is anything but a grim Holocaust documentary with Alice’s unfailing affirmation of life, usually accompanied by gusts of laughter.

Her health and speech have declined in recent months, and she no longer does interviews. But in a brief phone conversation, conducted mainly in German, Alice attributed her outlook partially to having been born with optimistic genes and a positive attitude.

An IMAX Film of the Jerusalem You Never Have Seen Before (Video)

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

Five years in the making, the first IMAX film ever made about Jerusalem is as much a visual tour de force as a marvel of cultural diplomacy.

“Jerusalem,” which had its world premiere last week at Boston’s Museum of Science, uses cutting-edge cinematography to immerse the audience in the ancient city’s historic sites from rarely seen perspectives.

Over the course of 45 minutes, viewers are treated to rare aerial views of the Old City as Jews gather at the Western Wall for the priestly blessing, Christian pilgrims march down the Via Dolorosa and Muslims gather at the Al-Aqsa Mosque on the first Friday of Ramadan.

Distributed by National Geographic Entertainment, the film, narrated by the British actor Benedict Cumberbatch, will show on IMAX screens and in digital 3-D cinemas across the United States in the coming weeks.

Gaining access to some of the world’s most sensitive and contested locations was a test of devotion and artful negotiations that took the film’s three producers and a team of advisers years to accomplish. Preparations required dozens of meetings with Israeli and Palestinian Authority officials, the Israeli army and the many clerics who control the city’s religious sites.

Filming from a low-altitude helicopter in the Old City of Jerusalem’s strict no-fly zone required a permit that had not been granted in more than 20 years, the filmmakers said, and acquiring the permit took eight months of negotiations.

In advance of the shooting, producers took out ads in the major Hebrew- and Arabic-language newspapers to notify residents about the helicopter filming.

“There was nothing that was not complicated,” Taran Davies, one of the film’s producers, said at the premiere.

Even the terrestrial shots were difficult to carry off. For the scene filmed at the Western Wall, an IMAX camera was mounted on a crane above the crowds.

The most challenging authorization by far was for the Temple Mount, known in Islam as the Muslim Noble Sanctuary, which required permission from the Islamic custodial body, the religious affairs ministry in Jordan and Israeli security forces.

A critical figure in helping the producers navigate the logistical maze was Ido Aharoni, now Israel’s consul general in New York. Aharoni first learned about the film six years ago when he directed Brand Israel, a project to promote Israel around the world.

He recognized the potential of portraying the country’s historical and cultural gems in such a visually powerful medium. IMAX films also typically screen in museums and can run for years.

“The whole purpose of the movie is to produce a visually awesome experience for the moviegoer who happens to be a museumgoer; it can’t be judged like any other movie,” Aharoni told JTA. “Realizing that, we told [the producers], ‘Whatever you need, we’ll help you.’ ”

The film’s mesmerizing visuals are woven into a narrative propelled by the voices of three teenage Jerusalemite women — Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Fluent in English, the women offer eloquent descriptions of the deep religious, cultural and family ties that bind them and their respective religions to their home city.

Though the film was carefully planned down to the last minute and camera angle, Daniel Ferguson, the film’s producer, writer and director, told JTA the teens’ words were their own.

“My goal is to promote understanding,” Ferguson told JTA. “The film will change assumptions and give a window into another point of view.”

The voices of the women are supplemented by that of Jodi Magness, an archaeologist at the University of North Carolina, who guides viewers through an ancient tunnel and visits active excavation sites that continue to unearth the history of the land.

The filmmakers took great pains to balance the presentation of all three religions, according to George Duffield, another producer with longstanding ties to Israel. He and Ferguson say they were at times pressed to take a position on controversial or political issues, but insisted on neutrality.

“Everyone wanted the film to be about their own faith,” Duffield said. “That’s how they see the city.”

The producers hope the film can be used to promote tolerance and understanding. Profits will be donated to the Jerusalem Foundation and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem to underwrite projects that benefit all residents of Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in a still from the IMAX film “Jerusalem."

Jerusalem’s Tower of David Museum in a still from the IMAX film “Jerusalem.”

‘Inch’allah’ Pulled from Israeli Film Festival in Australia (See Vid)

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

The Israeli Film Festival has cancelled scheduled screenings of award-winning French-Canadian film Inch’allah, following complaints it was “anti-Israeli” and should never have been part of the event, WA Today reports.

The decision to pull the film was made by Albert Dadon, chairman of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which presents the festival.

Dadon said the inclusion of Inch’allah was “an error” in the first place, because the film was a French-Canadian production, not an Israeli film.

But the Australian-Jewish web site J-Wire quotes a festival patron, David Schulberg, who says he wrote the organizers condemning the inclusion of Inch’allah, which he called “anti-Israeli,” saying that it “gravely misrepresents the situation that exists in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, highlighting the alleged suffering of Palestinians at the hand of the Israelis by distorting and distending the facts on the ground”.

Schulberg also noted that the director, Anaïs Barbeau-Lavalette, whose film is the tale of an Arab doctor driven to become a suicide bomber, was one of 500 Montreal artists who had signed a petition in 2010 supporting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Sol Salbe, who attended a Melbourne screening of Inch’allah, said he felt the removal of the film was wrong, and made for the wrong reasons.

Film critic and broadcaster Peter Krausz labelled the decision to withdraw the film from the program “appalling,” claiming it “makes us a laughing stock around the world.”

Here’s the plot summary of Inch’allah, from Rotten Tomatoes:

Chloe (Evelyne Brochu) is a young Canadian obstetrician working in a makeshift clinic in a Palestinian refugee camp in the West Bank, where she treats pregnant women under the supervision of Michael (Carlo Brandt), a French doctor.

Facing daily checkpoints and the separation barrier, Chloe is confronted with the conflict and the people it affects: Rand (Sabrina Ouazani), a patient for whom Chloe develops a deep affection; Faysal (Yousef Sweid), Rand’s older brother, a fervent resister; Safi (Hammoudeh Alkarmi), their younger brother, a child shattered by war who dreams of flying across borders; and Ava (Sivan Levy), a young soldier who lives next door to Chloe in her apartment in Israel.

Her encounter with the war draws Chloe into an adventure that’s both deeply personal and as large as the land. She loses her bearings, is uprooted, and goes into freefall. There are trips that shake us and transform us. There are trips that shatter all of our certainties. For Chloe, INCH’ALLAH is such a trip.(c) eOne

Please share your impressions with us.


Video: Camp Jihad

Monday, August 5th, 2013

This film was shot on location in the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) facilities in Judea, Samaria and Gaza, by a TV crew hired by the Nahum Bedein Center for Near East Policy Research.


New Film Highlights Israel’s Strengths

Thursday, August 1st, 2013

In Brad Pitt’s latest offering, World War Z, a virus transforms human beings into zombies determined to overtake the world and destroy every country on Earth. In the film, only Israel has the foresight to build a massive zombie-repelling wall. 

One of the film’s central characters, Mossad agent Jurgen Warmbrunn, explains, “In the ’30s, Jews refused to believe we could be put in concentration camps. In the ’70s, we didn’t believe we could be massacred at the Olympics.” Warmbrunn notes that based on these experiences, Israel remains ready for any security threat, maintaining a defense infrastructure that surpasses all other nations.

Some observers see the zombie-resistant wall as representative of the real life Security Barrier that keeps Palestinian suicide bombers out of Israel. In addition to being proactive in security, the movie portrays Israel as a humanitarian country that permits uninfected Palestinians to enter so that they will not be harmed by zombies. “Every human being we save is one less zombie to fight,” remarks Jurgen. He adds that saving Palestinian lives is good for peace. This too reflects an Israel that honors the rights of its Arab citizens, works to save Palestinian lives, and serves as an inspiration to the Islamic world by treating persecuted minority groups, such as Ahmadi Muslims and Bahais, with dignity.

In World War Z, Israel is also portrayed as a country in which women are given equal opportunities. For example, the film features an Israeli warrior named Segen, played by Israeli actress Daniella Kertesz, who saves lives and helps distribute the zombie vaccine.

In reality, Israel is a pioneer in women’s rights, a country where women proudly serve in the Israel Defense Forces. It is also engaged in humanitarian missions that help other countries across the world, including fighting against gender-based violence in South Sudan, sending agricultural and medical assistance to Haiti, rescuing people trapped under a collapsed shopping mall in Ghana, bringing relief to victims of an Oklahoma Tornado, helping Hurricane Sandy Victims, treating victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, and assisting first-responders at the Newtown Massacre. In a fictionalized form, World War Z highlights Israel’s innumerable contributions to the world and represents one of the most pro-Israel films ever made.

Visit United with Israel.

Iranians Citizens Increasingly Support Peace with Israel

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Contrary to mainstream media reports, momentum for peaceful relations with the State of Israel is building among the Iranian people.

“I think there are many Iranians who live for the day that Iran has diplomatic relations with Israel,” says Mahyar Shams Ahmadi, who was born in Tehran 28 years ago but now lives in Toronto. “In my view, if you just look at relations between Iran and Israel, it is clear that it is in fact the ruling regime in Iran that is preventing diplomatic relations.”

Ahmadi is inspired by the high-tech advances and Western-style democracy that Israeli society has achieved.  “Israel is already serving as a model for Iran, and other countries, on how to treat women and minorities,” he says. “Much like Canada, Israel does not oppress its citizens and allows them to think freely without fear of being persecuted no matter what your religion or beliefs are.”

Ahmadi criticizes Iranian leadership’s view of Israel as “little Satan” to the US’ “big Satan.” He says he is embarrassed and saddened that the present Iranian government remains opposed to Palestinian-Israeli peace negotiations. “Even with a new president, it is evident that Iran’s government hasn’t changed at all, and it is no surprise that Iran still continues to fail to live up to their international obligations,” he said.

Other Iranians are a bit more optimistic. “I think that the prospect of Israeli-Iranian relations will look good within the near future, either through the collapse of the regime, or by reform of Iranian politics,” says Pedram, an Iranian presently living in Stockholm, Sweden. “The Iranian and Jewish people have thousands of years of cultural and historical connection with each other and it cannot be broken just because we have an oppressive regime at the moment. I can with strong confidence say that the overwhelming majority of Iranians, both inside and outside the country, strongly support not only peace with Israel but also better relations in general.”

Recently, Iranian film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf visited Israel as a guest of honor at the Jerusalem Film Festival. He received an award for his efforts to promote freedom and democracy in Iran and hosted a film screening of his recent film The Gardener, which was the first Iranian film to be filmed in Israel in decades. A number of his other films were also highlighted at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Crowds of Israelis honored him with standing ovations. Makhmalbaf was the first high-profile Iranian artist and former revolutionary to visit the Jewish state since the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran.

By defying the BDS Movement and pro-regime forces inside the Islamic Republic, who forced the Iranian Cinema Association to boycott Makhmalbaf’s films, the director risks a prison sentence if he returns to Iran.

Still, Makhmalbaf says he is  “proud to have paved the way for Iranian cinema in Israel. Boycotting and writing statements does not solve anything. It only leads to war. We have to get to know each other through art, literature, and cinema, so we can become friends and end the hostility. That’s the reason I filmed my latest movie ‘The Gardener’ in Israel.” And, he adds, he hopes that someday soon, Israeli filmmakers will be able to shoot films in Iran.

Remarkably, more than 80 Iranian scholars, opposition group members, and human rights activists openly declared their support of his decision to come to Israel.

Visit United with Israel.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/united-with-israel/iranians-citizens-increasingly-support-peace-with-israel/2013/07/31/

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