Through the vastly diverse spectrum of narratives, comedies and documentaries, the 23rd annual Vancouver Jewish Film Festival (VJFF) has a selection of films that exude a youthful glow as young protagonists take centre stage, or centre screen, in no less than nine of the presented features.
To start, the film The Flood (Mabul), directed by Guy Nattiv, sets the bar high as it opens the festival with its powerful narrative amplified by the mesmerizing cinematography of Montreal’s own, Philippe Lavalette.
Based on the 2002 award-winning short film of the same name, and written and directed by Nattiv and Erez Tadmor, The Flood pulls us into the life of Yoni (Yoav Rotman), a physically awkward 13-year-old , forced to deal with the rush of events, people and emotions in the days leading to his bar mitzvah, including the sudden appearance of his older autistic brother, Tomer (Michael Moshonov), after 10 years of being hidden at a hostel that is suddenly shut down.
“The young actor, Michael Moshonov, had previously astonished me with his work in a film titled Bena, so it came as no surprise to me that he won best supporting actor for his portrayal of the autistic teenager in Mabul,” says Robert Albanese, executive director of the Vancouver Jewish Film Festival.
Set in 1960s Israel, the film Intimate Grammar (Hadikduk HaPnimi) also takes the perspective of a boy’s coming-of-age in the light of an impending bar mitzvah. Adapted from David Grossman’s poignant book, The Book of Intimate Grammar, this film was the winner of the Best Feature Film award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival as well as the Sakura Grand Prix at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
Another notable film comes to us from Emmy Award-winning director, Lisa Gossels with her documentary, My So-Called Enemy. This film reveals 22 Israeli and Palestinian teenagers of Jewish, Muslim and Catholic faiths, some of whom lost family in the conflict, who meet and become “sisters” in 2002, during a U.S. female leadership conference, Building Bridges for Peace. Gossels moves around six of these participants and follows them over the following seven years, documenting the profound impact of their conference experience over their lives.
Included in this year’s VJFF is the work of Adam Bogoch, then 18-year-old director of Complexity, and a Vancouverite, no
less. This is the second feature film of this now experienced 19-year-old, who started writing the script for his new feature three years ago about a woman, Clara (Emilie Ullerup), 26, who struggles to find herself.
“It’s one of those sweet films with greatly flawed characters, some subtle and some over the top, but there will be someone in there for everyone,” says Bogoch. “The story is shown through my young perspective, with the collaboration of a lot of really talented people, who took a chance on a naive teenager.”
Rounding out this year’s collection is the French comedy, The Names of Love (Le Nom des Gens), directed by Michel Leclerc and winner of the 2011 César Award for best actress (Sara Forestier) and best original writing (Baya Kasmi and Michel Leclerc).
VJFF’s Albanese concurs that this story of a free-spirited liberal young woman’s affair with a middle-aged Jewish scientist (Jacques Gamblin) is “the funniest comedy I have seen in years…it blends laugh-out-loud scenes and audacious sexy scenes with ‘catch your breath’ moments of sheer to the heart scenes and is always serving up [a way] to make the world right again…throughout the film.”
In keeping true to this year’s theme, VJFF is offering free admission to students aged 25 and under to regular screenings.
For more information, please visit: www.vjff.org