- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 5, 2001

Israel has been described as a land torn between those who want another California and those who seek a purified Jerusalem. Both sides are on view in the 35 films screened at the 17th Israel Film Festival, playing in Los Angeles through today, in Chicago April 28 through May 3 and in Miami May 5-10.
The series recently played to sold-out houses in New York City. The 35 films include features, documentaries and TV dramas; many are U.S. premieres or classics, all in Hebrew with subtitles.
One of the most compelling is writer-director Joseph Cedars "Time of Favor," a prize-winner in Israel that is based on a true incident.
In this thriller, Jewish fanatics plant explosives in the catacombs of the Temple Mount to "set history on the right course." This would trigger Armageddon between Jews and Muslims, which is just what the plotters want. An Army officer with close ties to the group says he wants to help track down the bombers before its too late. But is he part of the conspiracy?
Israel has an active film and TV industry, little from which is available commercially here. Only the films of Amos Gitai regularly make it into the top festivals and into American distribution.
The most recent, "Kippur," released in the United States in December and scheduled among festival films, is based on Mr. Gitais experiences during the Yom Kippur War of 1973.
The battle sequences are staged with remarkable force, and Mr. Gitai gets maximum effect from a modest budget. But his style long takes with the camera at a distance from subjects has a chilly, alienating effect.
The film also reflects Mr. Gitais apparent opposition to the Israeli establishment, for the war is presented as a horrible muddle (which, like all wars, it probably was in part), and those who dont know better might get the impression that Israel lost.
Festival attractions include romantic thrillers, biographies of pop stars, depictions of Palestinian relations with Israeli officialdom and examinations of the conflicts between Orthodox and secular Jews.
Also previewed:
David Ofeks "Five Love Stories" includes one about a 10-year-old girl who captivates three of her classmates, but it doesnt last. A recent immigrant from Russia runs into a woman he dated in the old country; he had no idea she had immigrated, too.
A 92-year-old woman and a former student fulfill a dying mans request. And a French emigre meets a woman he knew years earlier. Their happy life together is cut short by a fatal illness.
mA documentary, Gonen Glasers "It Will End Up in Tears," is a portrait of a close-knit, California family struggling to deal with the daughters lesbianism.
The family doesnt reject the daughter in the usual sense, but no one likes it. One brother describes his sister as "sick," while the father says her choice is like falling in love with "a dog or a horse."
Writer-director Danny Veretes "Yellow Asphalt" tells three stories set among the Bedouins who live in once-remote "Lawrence of Arabia" territory.
Neither they nor the Israelis, who figure here, are sympathetic. In one story, for example, a German woman who married a Bedouin tries to escape from the harshness and male domination of her life.
In another, a Bedouin woman has an affair with a married Israeli farmer, with unhappy results all around. The film is most interesting for its depiction of cultures rubbing up against one another.
A made-for-TV movie, director-co-writer Sharon Amranis "Farewell, My Cousin," concerns a former Army officer who betrayed his country. After several years in prison, he escapes and presents his family with the dilemma of what to do with him.
Israel requires both women and men to serve in the military, and many regard this as a high honor. A newly established officer-candidate school for women is the subject of the documentary "Company Jasmin," made by Yael Katzir, herself an army officer.
The women deal with the competing claims of military efficiency and femininity as well as the rigors of the course. The film also presents a view of the evolving role of women in Israels military.

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