Throughout history, pilgrims have descended upon Jerusalem to visit holy sites and other popular destinations. Starting Thursday, they will descend upon the City of Gold to set their sights on the silver screen – at the annual Jerusalem Film Festival.
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The festival has been around since 1984, and its current incarnation showcases some 200 films screened over ten days.
The Israeli film "Hunting Elephants" – about four misfits on a revenge mission – kicks off festivities at the open-air Sultan's Pool, right downhill from the Old City's Jaffa Gate.
Among the festival's programs are Panorama, which presents a crop of international feature films; The Jewish Experience, which showcases works relating to Jewish identity and history; In the Spirit of Freedom, cinematic takes on freedom and human rights; New Directors (self-explanatory) and Israeli Film (ditto). There are also classics, documentaries, animated films and shorts.
This year, there is also a tribute to Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf, an Internet cat and video festival for feline fans, and unknown shorts by Charlie Chaplin, among other gems. Also, special guest director Richard Linklater is popping over to Israel to attend a screening of his latest, "Before Midnight," starring Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke.
Lest you get excoriated by serious film fans, take a cue from Delpy and Hawke (see video) and remember to turn off your cell phones or at least silence them during screenings.
Tickets cost between NIS 35 and NIS 44 depending on how many screenings you attend.
Screenings will be held at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, the Lev Smadar theater, Mishkenot Sha'ananim and the city's newly renovated old train station.
See www.jff.org.il for detailed information about screenings, venues and transportation.
For tickets, call (02) 565-4350