Last year, a few weeks before the Israel Film Festival opening, the advertisement posters that announced the twenty-ninth edition of the event had been torn down or painted over in white in almost every neighborhood of the capital. The poster portrayed a young girl riding a bicycle that harmlessly revealed her knees while pedaling. Nonetheless, the image was too provocative for the ultra-orthodox section in Jerusalem, which forces women to sit in the back part of the bus or forbids them to walk on the same sidewalk as men do.
Regardless, the current executive director of Israel’s most important Film Festival is a woman: Alesia Weston, involved, through the mentioned conflict, in a social and religious scandal on her first year as the Festival’s director.
Lia van Leers, born in 1924, is a renown Israeli actress that has devoted her life to protect and promote her country’s film production. Thanks to her, Israel currently possesses the Jerusalem Film Collection, the Israel Film Archive and the Israel Film Festival, which celebrated its thirtieth edition in 2013. Jerusalem also holds the yearly International Women Film Festival of Israel, meant to promote motion pictures created by women and a place where films about the female world can find an open window to the world.
Famous filmmakers, including Amos Gitai, have explored and revealed the state of Jewish women in their country, subjugated by a patriarchal regime that follows the law of the Torah. Most of Gitai’s films reflect upon this reality, as can be seen in Kadosh (1999), a story in which two women confront the orthodox law differently at home. In this movie, actress Yäel Abecassis became well known; she is the producer of half-length film Aya (2012), by Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun. Abecassis mentioned that, as a woman, she couldn’t say no to participating in the project: “This is a county of men. We believe in soldiers, fighters, and Bibi Netanyahus…women do not participate in the fame (…) the difficult work we have before us is one of changing reality”.
Aya (Sarah Adler), the main character of this film, waits for someone at the airport; but chance and a wish to change the reality which Abecassis speaks about motivate her to pretend to be the chauffer of Mr. Overby (Ulrich Thomsen, well known by his role in Festen, by Thomas Vintenberg) that has just arrived to be part of the jury in the Rubinstein Piano Competition celebrated in Jerusalem. The action takes places in the intense car journey from the airport to Thomas’ hotel, along the long Route 1 that goes to the capital.
Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun, the directors of this half-length film, graduated from Sam Spiegel Film Institute of Jerusalem. Their final career projects, Sabath Entertainment and Tuesday’s Women were awarded prizes in several international festivals and were distributed by Sundance Channel and Canal +. Their ten minute long short film, Lost Paradise, has received up to twenty awards in international festivals.
Aya is the first half-length film that has been distributed in commercial movie theatres in Israel, in an individual manner. The film has participated in the Febiofest of Prague and the Jerusalem Film Festival. It will land in La Cabina International Half-length Film Festival in November 2013.
AYA | Israel · Mihal Brezis/Oded Binnun · 2012 · 40 min