'Dancing Arabs’ to Launch Jerusalem Film Festival

The film, based on novels by Haaretz columnist Sayed Kashua, tells the story of an Arab Israeli boy whose parents send him to a boarding school in Jerusalem.

Sayed Kashua, in an undated photo.
Natasha Mozgovaya

“Dancing Arabs,” Eran Riklis’ new film based on a screenplay by Haaretz columnist Sayed Kashua, will be opening the Jerusalem Film Festival this Thursday.

More than 200 foreign and Israeli films will debut at the 11-day festival, which will take place at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and elsewhere throughout the city. The closing feature will be “The Wind Rises,” an animated epic by director Hayao Miyazaki that weaves together key events in Japan’s history.

“Dancing Arabs,” an Israeli, German and French co-production, will be shown at Sultan’s Pool, where the festival’s opening films traditionally are screened. That work, based on the Kashua novels “Dancing Arabs” and “Second Person Singular,” tells the story of a boy from an Arab Israeli city whose parents send him to a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem.

This year the festival has attracted a raft of guests from abroad including Americans Spike Jonze and David Mamet as well as Korean director Park Chan-wook, Austrian director Ulrich Seidl and German actress Martina Gedeck.

Seidl directed the “Paradise” trilogy — three films produced over the past four years whose plots tell the story of three women. “Paradise: Faith” won a special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Seidl will be coming to Jerusalem with actress Maria Hofstätter for the screening of two of his works in which Hofstätter stars; the two will be holding a master class at the festival. Gedeck, who starred in “The Lives of Others,” will serve as a judge at the Israeli feature-film competition.

Judges at the festival include French Cinematheque chief Serge Toubiana, head Variety critic Scott Foundas, award-winning Greek director Alexandros Avranas and Turkish producer Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan.

Talya Lavie, whose “Zero Motivation” won two major prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival, will present her new project at the Jerusalem festival's Greenhouse pitching event Friday. This segment will be attended by 14 promising filmmakers  from countries including India, Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan and Montenegro. The winning director will collect $80,000 to help make his or her film.