Israel’s best films come to Chicago

By Ellen Braunstein, Special to Chicago Jewish News

Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion on the set of the 1968 interview from Yariv Mozer’s BEN-GURION: EPILOGUE. Photo by David Marks.

The Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema will light up screens for 12 days with provocative, humorous, controversial and inspiring independent art films from the Jewish state.

The 12th annual festival runs Oct. 25 to Nov. 5 at Chicago’s Music Box Theatre, Glenview’s ArcLight Cinemas in the Glen, Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and Chicago’s Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.

Showcased are Israel’s most current, internationally award-winning feature films and documentaries of the previous 12 months. The screenings add context by including guest appearances by Israeli film stars, filmmakers, film scholars and critics.

More than two dozen screenings will feature the diversity that underscores Israeli filmmaking, said Executive Director Cindy Stern. “Israel is a country with people from 120 different countries, speaking 70 different languages. Multiculturalism is a really big part of its films.”

Stern said that Israeli directors, writers and producers are now in great demand in Hollywood. “They know they will tell really good stories and they are ingenious in their use of resources.”

Opening night, Oct. 25, features a VIP reception, Israeli food and music at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and a screening of Ori Sivan’s ‘Harmonia,’ starring one of Israel’s brightest stars Alon Aboutboul. The biblical story of Abraham, Sarah and Hagar is set in modern-day Jerusalem. Sivan, Ofer Shabi and Yaniv Fridel will be discussing the film in person.

The following night, Rock the Box, a private party at Music Box, will showcase a double feature, Israeli food and beer and live music. The films are ‘Antenna,’ an engaging family dramedy sprinkled with humor, and ‘In Between,’ a sparkling taboo-breaking feature about the lifestyle of Palestinian women in Israel.

‘Ben-Gurion, Epilogue’ will be featured at Spertus on Oct. 30 and at ArcLight on Nov. 5. This important documentary was made from a lost 1968 interview of Israel’s first prime minister reflecting on his legacy and the future of the country he was instrumental in building. At Spertus, film editor Yael Perlove and a representative of the Israeli Consulate will discuss the film...

Most of the films are Chicago premieres. An exception is ‘The Women’s Balcony,’ a drama about the religious divide between Orthodoxy and Modern Orthodoxy. It will screen on Nov. 1 at ArcLight.

A family friendly dramedy ‘Abulele’ will be featured as part of a teen and family night on Oct. 31 at ArcLight. The Halloween night event includes prizes for best costumes.

Rom-com lovers will enjoy Rose Florentin’s ‘Mr. Predictable’ on Oct. 29 and Nov. 2 at ArcLight.

Last year, more than 7,500 people attended the festival, which is supported by more than 50 organizations, sponsors, businesses and individuals.

The selections give a snapshot of what Israeli life is today, Stern said. “We are strictly a cultural organization and look at all of our films through that lens, not politics.”

All films are show with English subtitles. More information about the festival — films, trailers, special guests, tickets, donations, sponsorships – is available by visiting

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