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Entertainment: Israeli Arava Int'l Film Fest to host some of the world’s top filmmakers

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If you enjoy the magic of cinema, you’ll enjoy it even more when you watch it on a large screen under the stars in the Arava desert at the 11th Arava International Film Festival, which will be held from November 9-19. It takes place in the heart of the Ashush natural reserve, next to the community of Tzukim.

This year, the festival will feature guests who are among the most acclaimed directors, producers, screenwriters and actors working all over the world. In addition, the festival will screen the classic, The Wizard of Oz, and the yellow-brick road and its unforgettable songs will light up the desert.

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What can festival goers expect to see?

The festival will open with a screening of Saint Omer by Alice Diop, which won the Silver Lion Award and the prize for Best Debut Film at the Venice International Film Festival this year. Diop, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker, made her narrative feature debut with Saint Omer. It tells the complex story of the trial in France of a philosophy student and Senegalese immigrant (Guslagie Malanda), who is accused of intentionally drowning her 15-month-old daughter.

The film is told from the point of view of a novelist (Kayije Kagame), also of Senegalese descent, who is attending the trial in order to adapt the defendant’s story into a modern retelling of the Greek Medea legend. Lead actress Guslagie Malanda will attend the festival at a screening two days after the opening. The movie is France’s official selection for the Best International Feature Oscar.

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 SCENES FROM ‘Saint Omer’ and ‘Eo.’ (credit: ARAVA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL) © Provided by The Jerusalem Post SCENES FROM ‘Saint Omer’ and ‘Eo.’ (credit: ARAVA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL)

Another distinguished guest of this year’s festival will be one of the world’s most lauded filmmakers: Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the Turkish director best known for Winter Sleep, which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 2014. He will be accompanied by his wife and frequent collaborator, writer/director Ebru Ceylan.

The festival will screen five of his award-winning films: Winter Sleep, about a discontented hotel owner in a remote village, loosely based on stories by Anton Chekhov; Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, about a group of men who search for a dead body in the Anatolian steppes, which won the Grand Prize of the Jury at Cannes; Three Monkeys, the story of a family that stops communicating, which won the Best Director Prize at Cannes; The Wild Pear Tree, a look at an unpublished writer trying to publish a book who returns to his hometown; Climates, a portrait of a marriage in crisis; and Cocoon, a short film.

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In addition to the screenings, there will be an exhibition called Climates presented at the Ashush Gallery in the Tzukim artists’ village, where Ceylan’s photographs will be on display; he also will participate in a master class there.

Jerzy Skolimowski, the director of Eo – the story of a donkey that travels the countryside and the humans it interacts with, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes this year – will attend the festival and present the film with his frequent collaborators, producer Jeremy Thomas and screenwriter Ewa Piaskowska, who is also Skolimowski’s wife.

Skolimowski has made such films as Moonlighting and 11 Minutes. Thomas has produced 75 films, including the Best Picture Oscar winner, The Last Emperor by Bernardo Bertolucci, as well as such gems as Khyentse Norbu’s The Cup and Phillip Noyce’s Rabbit-Proof Fence. In addition to Eo, several of these filmmakers’ other works will be shown, including Bertolucci’s The Sheltering Sky, which Thomas produced, and Skolimowski and Piaskowska’s Four Nights with Anna.

Who else will present their work?

Other filmmakers who will present their award-winning work at the festival include Lise Akoka, the co-director (with Romane Gueret) of The Worst Ones; Alexandru Belc, who made Metronom; and Hlynur Palmason, director of Godland.

The Arava International Festival will include a number of recent Israeli movies, including Valeria is Getting Married, Michal Vinik’s film about Ukrainian brides in Israel, as well as movies by local filmmakers produced by the Arava Film Fund.

The festival was created by movie producer Eyal Shiray, the festival director, in partnership with the Arava Tichona Regional Council. The event is supported by Arava Tichona Regional Council, the Cinema Council of the Culture and Sport Ministry, Mifal Hapayis, the Tourism Ministry, and the Regional Cooperation Ministry.

For the full program and to order tickets, visit the festival website at

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