Bruno Bombs, Students Shine at Cinema South

Haim Watzman

The Sapir College faculty member who introduced Bruno Dumont’s Hadewijch, screened at this year’s Cinema South Festival in Sderot, said that Dumont seeks in his films to understand the intricacies and intimacies of religious faith. Hadewijch is a technically fine, formally intriguing film, one in which it is clear that the director has given great thought to each shot and frame. But for a film about faith it is curiously soulless.

The story is about a girl named Celine, who has, as a pre-novice at a convent, taken the religious name Hadewijch, after a medieval visionary who wrote of her passion for Jesus. Her superiors, worried at her over-asceticism, send her back to her huge, ornate, and loveless home. For a convent girl, she has surprisingly few compunctions about allowing herself to be picked up in a café by a low-life from the projects whose devout Muslim brother convinces her to take part in a terror operation. Throughout her preparations, and in the film’s coda, in which Celine seems somehow to have survived the explosion, she insists that her only great love is for Jesus. We see that love, but we do not feel it.

The next day’s screening of Dumont’s Flanders left me with the same sense that Dumont’s carefully planned exteriors do not connect with the interiors of his characters.

Read moreBruno Bombs, Students Shine at Cinema South

It’s a Guy Thing: Israel’s Oscar Nominees

Haim Watzman

For the third year running, an Israeli film is a nominee for the foreign film Oscar. I offer some thoughts on the difference between current and classic Israeli films in the current issue of The Forward:

When I was an adolescent growing up in America in the early 1970s, I knew of only two Israeli films. There was the soldier movie — that was Yosef Milo’s “He Walked Through the Fields.” And there was the one about Jaffa’s underclass — that was Menachem Golan’s “Kazablan.”

Four decades later, for three years in a row, Israeli films have been Oscar nominees for the best foreign-language film. Of the three, two are soldier films — Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort and Ari Folman’s Waltz With Bashir. The third is this year’s nominee, Ajami, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani’s saga of the Jaffa underclass.

So what’s new?

The easy answer is that the two older films are inspiring and uplifting, while the three new ones are depressing and angst-ridden . . .

Read moreIt’s a Guy Thing: Israel’s Oscar Nominees