The Highs and Lows of the Miami Israel Film Festival

Categories: Culture
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Right on the heels of the Miami Jewish Film Festival, the 24th annual Israel Film Festival (the Miami edition) starts tonight and runs through February 25th. It opens with A Matter of Size, the same movie that opened the Miami Jewish Film Festival, a prime choice because it took home the Audience Award at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic and received 13 Israeli Film Academy nominations. In it, a 340-pound Israeli dishwasher decides to forgo dieting and waddles around in a faux-loincloth wedgie and throw down--sumo style--with his other overweight friends.

Check the festival schedule for a list of the 20-or-so films, but here's our take on one to skip and one to savor.

First, the bad:

In what is surely a miss for the festival, Mrs. Moscovitch and the Cats, directed by Jorge Gurvich follows a retired Israeli schoolteacher who falls down and can't get up, landing in the geriatric ward of a hospital. Suddenly faced with her overwhelming oldness, Mrs. Moscovitch is at turns depressed and reinvigorated as she makes friends and bags a boyfriend -- that is, until most everybody in the film keels over. The performances aren't stellar enough to rescue it from being just a grim view of Father Time's abuse. If you need to be reminded to fear getting old, becoming a crazy feline looney, and then dying alone, Mrs. Moscovitch and the Cats is for you.

Then, the good:
 
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Oscar nominators clearly have a soft spot for Israel. In the last past two years, Beaufort and Waltz With Bashir were both contenders but not winners. But this year's Israeli film Ajami just might win. The unscripted dialogue is mostly in Arabic; it was co-directed by Israeli and Arab-Israeli filmmakers, Yaron Shani and Scandar Copti, virtual no-names until now. And instead of actors, the directors cast cops to play cops, and street kids as street kids. The film centers on the ongoing ethic conflicts in the neighborhood of Ajami where it's not only Jews v. Arabs, but also Christians v. Muslims, and urban Arabs v. Bedouin. Ajami was shot in under three weeks for less than $1 million; it's the anti-Avatar. Ajami is the closing night film for the festival on February 25.

All Israel Film Festival films screen at Sunrise Cinemas Intracoastal (3701 NE 163rd St., North Miami Beach), and tickets cost $12. Call 877-966-5566 or visit israelfilmfestival.com.

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