28th Annual Israel Film Festival
by Willard Manus
LOS ANGELES - The Israel Film Festival has made huge strides since its humble beginnings in 1982. Over one thousand films, documentaries, TV dramas and shorts have been screened annually to nearly a million filmgoers.
This years festival kicked off with a gala opening-night awards presentation and the West Coast premiere of NEXT TO HER, an official selection at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Asaf Korman and starring Dana Ivgy, who won a best-actress award from the Israeli Academy Awards, the film tackles a tough subject: the challenge of raising a severely mentally challenged teenager. Gabby (played with astonishing realism by Liron Ben Shlush) is autistic but her sister Rachel (Igvy), a security guard, refuses to put her in a home, choosing instead to care for her on her own.
no easy task. Because she works full-time, Rachel must leave Gabby alone
in their flat all day. She must also bear the brunt of Gabbys often-contrary
behavior: angry screams and fits, sudden kicks and bites, stubborn refusals
to obey orders. At the same time, Gabby also shows a sweet, loving side,
an ability to laugh at certain things (TV cartoons, amusement-park attractions).
Above all, she can take solace in her sisters company; they take
baths together, sometimes sleep in each others arms.
Avraham on his moral pilgrimage is his son, a didgiredoo-playing, rap-artist
Orthodox Jew (!) and Maria, a young prostitute with the proverbial heart
of gold. Out of these unlikely elements, Nattiv and Tadmor weave a warm,
good-natured tale that takes some unexpected twists and turns. Their film
shows modern Greece in a good lightexcept for one scene in which
Avraham comes face to face with a bunch of Golden Dawn fascistsand
it also has many humorous moments. But ultimately MAGIC MEN deals in a
serious way with the themes of reconciliation and mortality.