festival - Olivier Fitoussi - July 8 2011
The opening of the Jerusalem International Film Festival last night. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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Thousands of directors, filmmakers from Israel and abroad and cinema lovers thronged to Jerusalem's Sultan's Pool last night for the opening of the 28th Jerusalem International Film Festival.

The event kicked off with an opening ceremony, followed by the science fiction thriller "Super 8" directed by J.J. Abrams and produced by Steven Spielberg.

In a short video-greeting just before the film, Abrams said in Hebrew, "Good evening Jerusalem."

Everyone received a blue-and-white popcorn bucket at the entrance.

In his opening speech, Mayor Nir Barkat spoke about the city's cultural momentum and the doubling of its culture budget. "What about the east of the city?" someone shouted, to the audience's applause.

Lia Van Leer, founder of the film festival and Jerusalem Cinemateque, granted achievement awards to critic and lecturer Nachman Ingber, director Eran Riklis ("The Syrian Bride," "The Human Resources Manager ) and Hungarian director Bela Tarr ("The Outsider," "Family Nest," "Damnation" ). Tarr is the festival's guest this year.

"One of the best films I've seen is Ingmar Bergman's 'Wild Strawberries,' in which a doctor is honored for 50 years of service to society, which turns out to be one of the hardest days of his life," Ingber said. "I didn't really do anything, only tried to protect people's honor. I just wanted to show pictures from somebody's life."

Tarr's latest effort, "The Turin Horse," will be among the 200 films screened in the 10-day festival.

Riklis surveyed the main landmarks of his career and thanked the people in Israel's film industry. "I can't stand here, such a short way away from the Shalit family, without saying anything about Gilad Shalit," he said. "I think we must bring him home."

A People's Favorite Award will be granted for the first time this year to one of the 11 Israeli feature films competing in the festival.

The 11 contestants for the Haggiag Family Award for Israeli Cinema Best Full-Length Feature are Jonathan Sagall's "Lipstikka," Ami Drozer's "My Australia," Maya Kenig's "Off-White Lies," Marco Carmel's "My Lovely Sister," Sameh Zoabi's "Man Without A Cell Phone," Yossi Madmoni's "Restoration," "Hagar Ben Asher's "The Slut," Nadav Lapid's "Policeman," Yohanan Weller's "Salsa Tel Aviv," Hadar Friedlich's "Glorious Valley" and Nissim Notrika's "Obsession."