31 July 2010

It’s been more than a fortnight since the World Cup final. The end of the month-long, Guinness-soaked Mundial can only be described time-wise by words like “fortnight,” as it runs so contrary to American culture. My watching cohort were non-American Anglos, so much so the sound of another Yank talking brought on levels of cognitive dissonance I seldom experienced outside switching passports in a European airport. Only a few moments of American interjection stick out – the US team’s Hollywood finish advancement in the group stage, the Germany-England game with an inebriated, 20-something Yank yelling in a fake English accent about the Holocaust, etc. – in a game seldom appreciated outside of expat circles.

If the World Cup runs contrary to American culture, the Jerusalem Film Festival runs contrary to Israeli culture. A week long event revolving around the city’s Cinematheque, the Festival brings in international actors, films yet to be released in Israel, and an onslaught of style so desperately needed. I managed to get to a total of eight films, largely due to a manageable work schedule and eating pasta to save up the money. What seemed like a challenge of seeing three films in a row in one day turned out to be a source of pleasure, like the first day of classes in a semester at college: three completely different experiences that lit up different parts of my brain. Some of the films were outstanding (the simultaneously funny and chilling "Four Lions" and the must-see "No One Knows About Persian Cats"), some made people in the audience leave prematurely ("Andante," one of the first Israeli surrealist films), some fell short of their real potential ("The Golden Pomegranate," with the very odd English-only dialogue) and other were nothing short of the perfectly descriptive 'bleccch' ("Life During Wartime").
Beyond the individual films, the Festival serves to burn a hole in the increasingly isolationist culture here. As with other aspects of Israeli society, American attitudes are pervasive here – fast-food, individualism, even clothing trends as of late – including the notion that "the rest of the World can go to Hell, we'll be just fine." It's a generalization, for sure, but has some bearing on how we absorb certain trands and eschew others; how entires sectors of society ignore others; and the growing, almost idelogically violent, divide between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

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