Yael Sherer, director of 'Dirty Laundry',  which screens at the 2012 Women’s Film Festival
Yael Sherer, director of 'Dirty Laundry', which screens at the 2012 Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot. Photo by Noa Yafe
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The International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot runs from November 5-11, and this year the focus is squarely on the subject of ‘Women and Religion." The opening film, “Higher Ground” (USA, 2011), shown at the Weizmann Institute, was directed by Vera Farmiga and is about an insular evangelist community that is knocked off-kilter when one of its members begins to doubt her faith. Based on the memoirs of writer Carolyn S. Briggs, who also wrote the screenplay, it depicts a religious woman’s struggles with her heretical thoughts and examines the role of women in religious societies.

The main guest of the festival this year is German director Margarethe von Trotta, who will present her new film “Hannah Arendt,” which was shot partly in Israel and tells the story of the German philosopher who came to Jerusalem in the early 1960s to cover the Eichmann trial for the New Yorker. Another guest is Argentinean director Lucrecia Martel, who burst on the international scene with her movie “Egg” (2001) that was shown at the Sundance and Berlin film festivals. Martel places women in the center of her movies and is considered one of the most prominent Latin American directors of the past decade. Two more of her films – “The Holy Girl” and “The Headless Woman” – will be screened at the festival. Martel and von Trotta will also both give master classes as part of the festival.

Another intriguing guest, Nadia El Fani, will show two of her documentaries. El Fani is a Tunisian filmmaker and publicist who lives in France, and her movie “Secularism, Inshallah!” depicts the revolution that erupted in her homeland in 2010 and ignited a wave of revolts across the Arab world, and the conflict between secularism and religion that stood at the center of this struggle. The film sparked protest when it was shown in Tunisia, and El Fani faces the threat of arrest should she return to the country. Her other film to be shown at the festival is “No Harm Done,” in which she draws a parallel between her battle with cancer and the results of the revolution. The screenings will be followed by an open discussion with the filmmaker’s participation.