The 2021 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema:

Curation is Key

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Lior Chefetz’ Sky Raiders: a new classic for kids and their parents and grandparents. (Other adults will like it, too.)

Today there are literally hundreds of streaming sources out there from which to choose. But if you're a fan of international cinema, specifically the most current, award-winning Israeli cinema, then this all-Israeli-all-the-time film festival--one of only a handful of all-Israeli film festivals in North America--is where you want to be April 18-28. 

Last spring, the Festival pivoted to a virtual space quickly to accommodate the needs of audience members sheltering in place, and now its premiere annual event has found a home in that season. Until it is safe to gather in person, the Festival will continue to stream a carefully-selected collection of Israeli feature films, documentaries, shorts, and TV--along with high profile guests in live and recorded conversations--throughout the year.

Below is a summary of some of the very best content--curated just for you--you'll have unique (read: never before or, as yet, very rarely seen outside of Israel) access to very soon.

It's a family affair

This month, both fictionally and non-fictionally, the focus is on family--parents, kids, spouses, siblings, and surrogates... but also friends, community members, fellow concentration camp survivors, and partners in crime--with whom the subjects have shared experiences. In one sense, it is as if Israelis are looking inward to redefine what "family" means.

For example, in Ruthy Pribar's debut feature Asia , a single mom (Russian-Israeli actress Alana Yiv) attempts to balance her party girl lifestyle and nursing career with the increasingly demanding care of her teenage daughter ( Shtisel , and Unorthodox's Golden Globe nominee Shira Haas). The film won nine Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Feature.

10 films in 10 days

In his latest feature Here We Are , Nir Bergman ( In Treatment ) explores the emotional journey of a divorced father (Shai Avivi) who has difficulty coming to terms with the need for his adult son with autism to live a more independent life. The film won four Israeli Academy Awards, including Best Director, Actor, and Screenplay.

In husband-and-wife team Chen Rotem and Omer Yefman's Holding It In, 30-something Israeli singer Rotem, with two children of her own, selflessly decides to become a surrogate so her two friends, a married pair unable to conceive, can experience parenthood.

Beth Elise Hawk's documentary Breaking Bread is about an unusual cooking competition begun by Dr. Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, the first Arab Muslim to win Israel's MasterChef. Today in her A-Sham Arabic Food Festival, teams of Arab and Jewish chefs collaborate to create mouth-watering meals and serve up hope, mutual understanding, and social change among themselves and others in the process.

Tony Award winner and Hollywood star John Benjamin Hickey ( The Normal Heart ) and Israeli heartthrob Niv Nissim play a kind of odd couple when an established New York Times journalist on assignment in search of the real Tel Aviv rents the funky flat of an experimental filmmaker in Eytan Fox's  Sublet .

A bond between Slovakian sisters, both saved by the same SS officer who had a lifelong obsession with one of them, is at the core of the tragic love story told in Maya Sarfaty's Love It Is Not . The film won Best Israeli Film at the 2020 DocAviv.

Finally, two kids adopt a reclusive grandfather figure in the Festival's big family-friendly flick, Lior Chefetz' Sky Raiders . The feel-good feature promises to be popular not only with parents, grandparents, and kids, but anyone who is young at heart and dares to dream big. 

There will be 10 films in total to watch over 10 days. 

For additional film synopses, all-access passes, tickets, sponsorships and more, go to israelifilmchi.org .

Cindy Stern is the Executive Director of the Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. 



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