Lights, camera… Israel!

The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema (CFIC)—running Oct. 18-28 in both the city and suburbs—will spotlight films and TV, plus welcome a cadre of guests.

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Roee Florentin’s rom-com And Then She Arrived serves up more light-hearted fare.

The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema (CFIC)-running Oct. 18-28 in both the city and suburbs-will spotlight films and TV, plus welcome a cadre of guests. We asked CFIC Executive Director Cindy Stern for a sneak preview: 

Opening Night

The Opening Night event is a showing of The Museum , hosted by its director, Ran Tal, and some directors of the Israel Museum, its subject. The film provides insights on the paintings, artifacts, and other displays, and on the people who work and visit there. The Museum represents Israel's history, creativity and legacy, and this year, we are celebrating 70 years of that in film. 

The evening will include a pre-screening reception and a post-screening Q&A. We will also honor our presenting sponsors, Bee Crain and Dr. Michael Maling, of the Crain-Maling Foundation. 

Documentaries galore

The Oslo Diaries is a behind-the-scenes look at 1993 Oslo Accords. Our special guest for the screening is its chief negotiator, Joel Singer, who will join us at for a Q&A with Prof. Elie Rekhess of Northwestern University's Crown Center Israel Studies department. 

We're also presenting the World Premiere of Racheli Schwartz's The Syrian Patient exploring how Syrian civilians injured in their country's civil war have been smuggled into Israel for medical treatment. The director will attend both screenings and take part in Q&As. Am Shalom synagogue in Glencoe adopted a Syrian refugee family, who will speak at the Sunday, Oct. 21 screening. And the Oct. 23 screening will feature local representatives of Magen David Adom. 

Through personal interviews and archival footage, Fiona Murphy's Remember Baghdad recalls the 20th-century lives of Jews in Iraq-part of a 2,600-year tradition-before the community was forced to emigrate when Israel declared statehood. 

We'll also show a documentary double feature about world-renowned Israeli writer Etgar Keret. One doc is Based on a True Story , by Dutch filmmaker Stephane Kaas; it features an interview with National Public Radio's This American Life host Ira Glass. The other is Tel Aviv LIVE! about what it means to be an artist in Tel Aviv today. 

Touching the Sky , by Tamar Tal-Anati ( Life in Stills ), follows six women in the Israeli Air Force's prestigious flight school as they pursue their dream of becoming pilots. It originally appeared as a series on Israeli TV.

Not just film, but TV, too

Previously, we screened the Israeli TV show Fauda , now on Netflix. This year, we are screening the entire 12 episodes of Your Honor ( Kvodo ), over two consecutive Saturday nights, Oct. 20 and 27. Your Honor chronicles a judge whose son is involved in a hit-and-run accident. The co-creator and sole writer of the series, Shlomo Mashiach, will be in attendance. The U.S. version of Your Honor , produced by CBS, will be set in New Orleans, instead of Tel Aviv.

And who better than Michael Lombardo to articulate what makes good television-period-than the guy who green-lighted True Blood, Game of Thrones, Silicon Valley, Girls, Veep, Westworld, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, and  Too Big to Fail . And he is executive-producing  The Summer of 2014 , currently shooting in Israel.

Well, Lombardo will take part in our expert panel following the screenings of the first episodes of two award-winning Israeli shows, On the Spectrum and Significant Other ( Kacha Zeh ). Other members of the panel include Shlomo Mashiach; Dana Modan, co-creator, writer and star of Significant Other ; and Michael Fisch, assistant professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago.

Holocaust films

Thanks to the generosity of the Sage and Henry Plitt Charitable Trusts, our audiences will see the Chicago Premiere of Catherine Lurie-Alt's Back to Berlin . The film tells the story of motorcyclists who retrace the journey of a group who rode throughout Europe recruiting for the first Maccabia Games in pre-state Israel in 1931. Over 80 years later, descendants of the original riders travel from Israel and to the first Berlin Maccabia, held in Hitler's Olympic stadium. 

There is also an animated film, Daniella Koffler and Uri Zeis' Compartments , part of our "Israeli Women in Shorts" program, about a young woman who moves to Berlin to talk with her father, the son of Holocaust survivors. Now, there are about 20,000 young Israelis living in Berlin who have had similar real-life conversations with their families.

'Israeli Women in Shorts' 

We've gathered together five Israeli short films-all about women, and all Chicago premieres-in a CFIC-exclusive program. It's the 7th annual evening of Film By & About Women, to be held Oct. 24. Topics range from a 95-year-old Holocaust survivor who always wins the Purim-costume contest at her retirement home ( Spring Chicken ), to an IDF commander who gets hit on by one of her recruits ( The Love Letter ), to a young woman and her gay friend who run into Mr. Wrong on a night out ( Albi and Alma )-and a Greek-Israeli woman in 1950s Tel Aviv who is abused by her husband ( Rebel ). The director of that last one, Oran Zegman, will join us in person for a Q&A. 

But wait, there's more!

Ofer Raul Graizer's award-winning The Cakemaker is a must-see about a baker in Berlin and his relationship with an Israeli couple. It's been shown in limited release commercially.

There's also Mike Burstyn's Azimuth , set in the Sinai at the end of the Six-Day War. It's about two soldiers, Israeli and Egyptian, who are trapped together in a bunker, each hoping to escape the other. The actors are the sons of Israeli and Egyptian soldiers who fought against each other in 1967 and 1973.

Much more lighthearted is the rom-com And Then She Arrived , about a 30-something "good boy" and a moped-driving "bad girl." It stars two very funny ladies from The Women's Balcony .

Fractures , a feature film made by the same director as the popular Apples from the Desert , Arik Lubetsky, will make its Chicago premiere at the festival. The film centers around the wife of a professor-accused of sexual coercion-who confronts both her husband and his accuser to unearth the truth.

This year, over half of our films are made by women. Today, 50 percent of the students at the top film schools in Israel are female. But gender parity is a challenge for women filmmakers worldwide, and we are very happy and honored to support that effort. 

For Festival trailers, showtimes, and more, go to israelifilmchi.org.



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