This year's Cinema South Festival, starting May 29 at the Sderot Cinematheque, is expanding to include a special category for full-length independent dramas. The event organizers are working out the final format for this section, which will be the very first of its kind at an Israeli film festival. Three or four Israeli films will be screened in this category in Sderot. According to the festival's director and founder, Avner Faingulernt, he got the idea to launch the new category after watching the film, "Chatulim al Sirat Pedalim" ("Cats on a Pedal Boat" ), directed by Yuval Mendelson and Nadav Hollander, and realizing that this is a fairly new phenomenon in Israeli cinema.

"This section is for drama features, which for the most part are a director's first film, and it will present subversive, unexpected and alternative entertainment," he said. "We discovered that increasing numbers of films are now being produced in different frameworks, completely independently, or with only limited support from the film funds. Just this year, for example, around 12 such movies were made. We realized that this is a phenomenon among dramas ... trying to move in other directions, not just with regard to production methods, but also cinematic form, and we decided to give expression to this new phenomenon in Israeli cinema."

According to Faingulernt, they are now hammering out the final details of this new category. The lectors appointed are also selecting the films for this group - which will apparently only be screened this year, but in the future will compete against each other.

"Cats on a Pedal Boat," among the films to be shown next month in the new category, is a romantic teen comedy starring Dana Frider and Michael Moshonov, who play a pair of high school students who set off on an innocent boat outing in Hayarkon Park and get entangled in a series of adventures - including, among other things, an encounter with an evil admiral (Shmuel Vilozny ) and four sea scouts. The film, produced by Jonathan Bar Ilan, is set to open in theaters this summer.