Jerusalem Unspools a Tradition


Cameras! Lights! Jerusalem?

Yes, Jerusalem: The holy city is reeling with movie action, awaiting the 28th annual Jerusalem Film Festival next month.

Set to unspool for a 10-day run beginning on July 7, the festival may be 7,000 miles from Hollywood but close to the hearts of cineastes for its taste of the world's best.

Late Philadelphian Jack Wolgin gave the city the ultimate screen test more than 20 years ago, donating funds to provide his beloved Jerusalem with some of the Mideast magic that comes with the movie mania this festival encourages.

Indeed, the Wolgin Award for Israeli Cinema is one of the most coveted among Israeli filmmakers.

He was encouraged to get involved by Lia van Leer, who, based on his experiences as a judge at the Cannes Film Festival, in 1984 converted a franc vision of a film-fest to a shekel version.

Van Leer steered the festival to a cityscape profile abounding in film. The founder left his post in 2008, handing over the reins — and projectors — to Ilan de Vries as CEO, who oversees some 200 films shown at the Jerusalem Cinematheque and open-air Sultan's Pool Amphitheatre.

The Jerusalem Film Festival has been a precursor, screening and lauding "Life Is Beautiful" and the otherwise barely known director/star Roberto Benigni in 1998, before Hollywood would focus on his Holocaust "comedy."

The festival has not been without controversy. A number of American stars reportedly decided to opt out of attending last year after the flotilla incident in which Israeli forces attacked a vessel aimed at disrupting the blockade of Gaza.

But then, conversely, there are chances this year that any Lars von Trier invitation may get lost in the mail.

For information and a film/seminars schedule, visit:



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