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Israel Film Festival kicks off in L.A. with 'Restoration'

March 15, 2012 |  6:00 am

"Restoration" at Israel Film Festival

The 26th annual Israel Film Festival L.A. kicks off Thursday with a gala at Paramount Pictures and continues for two weeks showcasing more than 30 narrative films, documentaries, student shorts and television series.

Opening night features the intimate drama “Restoration,” about an elderly man who has a workshop restoring antiques. The film was nominated for 10 Israeli Academy Awards and won the dramatic screenwriting award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. “Restoration” marks the feature directorial debut of Yossi Madmoni, who previously worked in TV.

Other highlights include the drama “The Flood,” about two brothers on the eve of one’s bar mitzvah; “Intimate Grammar,” a coming-of-age tale that was named best feature film at the 2010 Jerusalem Film Festival; and the documentary “Dolphin Boy,” about a young boy who receives dolphin-assisted therapy after he is severely beaten. There will also be a tribute to Jonah Hill, who was nominated for an Oscar this year for his role in “Moneyball.”

It’s a far cry from the first stateside Israel Film Festival, 30 years ago in Boston. “It was a four-day festival with six films,” said Meir Fenigstein, founder and executive director of the festival.

Meir FenigsteinThat first festival, he said, was a success, so “I decided to drive down to New York and nine months later, I did my first festival in New York. I came to Los Angeles in 1986 and the first festival was at the Nuart Theatre. And I’m still doing it. In May, the festival will be in Miami and hopefully in October we will be in New York.”

Over the last decade, the Israeli film industry has blossomed, with about 20 features now being released annually because of a law allowing filmmakers to receive government funding, Fenigstein said. That gives him a richer slate to program.

“It is going to be the biggest exhibition of Israeli films [outside of Israel] around the world,” he said. “The films are very personal stories. They are getting better every year. I think that’s why we are seeing more Israeli films reaching the festival market and getting good distribution in the United States.”

Hill will receive the IFF achievement in film award. Showtime’s president of entertainment, David Nevins, and executive producers Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa of the pay channel’s award-winning series “Homeland” (which is based on the Israeli TV series “Hatufim”), will receive the achievement in television award at the opening ceremony. Guest of honor is Limor Livnat, Israel's minister of culture and sport.

Several screenings during the festival will feature Q&As with directors, producers and actors. And for the first time at the festival, award-winning student short films from the graduates of the School of Communication of Judea and Samaria will screen.

After opening night, screenings will be held the Laemmle Music Hall in Beverly Hills and the Laemmle Fallbrook 7 in West Hills.


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Top photo: Nevo Kimchi, Sasson Gabay and Sarah Adler in the movie "Restoration." Credit: Sundance Film Festival. Bottom photo: Meir Fenigstein. Credit: IsraFest Foundation Inc.