The 29th edition of the Israel Film Festival in Los Angeles shines the spotlight on the country's new directorial voices, including Yuval Delshad, the writer-director of the opening night feature "Baba Joon," the winner of the 2015 Israeli Academy Ophir Award for best film — the top film prize in that country.
IFF founder and executive director Meir Fenigstein said the idea was to bring in new voices and ideas, reflective of the country and its burgeoning film industry.
"There are very few old-timers in this year's festival," Fenigstein said in a recent interview. "You can see the new ideas, the new excitement. This country is full of excitement."
This year's festival, which opens Wednesday evening and continues through Nov. 19, features 29 narrative and documentary films including 10 world premieres, seven U.S. premieres and seven Los Angeles premieres. The programs will be screened at the Laemmle Ahrya Fine Arts and Music Hall 3 in Beverly Hills; the Laemmle Royal in West Los Angeles, the Laemmle Town Center 5 in Encino and the Laemmle NoHo 7 in North Hollywood.
"Baba Joon" is Israel's official entry in the 2016 foreign-language film Oscar derby. The drama, which is in Farsi, revolves around an Iranian man at odds with his rebellious teenage son because he is not interested in continuing his family's turkey farm.
Delshad, who was born in Israel of Iranian immigrants, noted the country's cinema has been on the rise "with more and more first-time directors presenting really good films," he said via email.
"There were two other debut films nominated alongside 'Baba Joon' for best film," Delshad said. "I think that shows that the audience as well as the academy are very welcoming for first-timers like myself and are eager for fresh and original films. I wanted to move people, to excite them to share my life's experiences and make a change in people's lives."
The gala opening night at the Steve Tisch Cinema Center in the Saban Theatre in Beverly Hills will honor Oscar- and Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who penned "Steve Jobs," and Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren. Her film "Woman in Gold" will also be screening at the festival.
More than 80% of the programming is either Ophir nominees — the Israeli equivalent of the Oscars — or winners such as "Censored Voices," which took the top documentary prize.
"It's a little bit controversial but powerful," said Fenigsten. "It's about the Six-Day War — things nobody knows happened."
Other highlights of the festival include:
Amir Wolf's "Fire Birds," a drama about a police detective who is assigned a case of a murdered Holocaust survivor.
Oded Raz's "Galis: The Journey to Astra," a sci-fi adventure based on a popular Israel miniseries.
Elad Keidan's "Afterthought," an existential comedy that earned the top prize at the Haifa Film Festival.
"Fauda," a popular 2015 TV series that examines both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Many of the directors, including Delshad, Wolf and Keidan, as well as producers and actors, will also be on hand after the screenings to participate in Q&A's.
29th Israel Film Festival
Where: Laemmle theaters in Los Angeles
When: Oct. 28 to Nov. 19. See website for showtimes.
Admission: $75 and $150 on opening night; other programming is $13 for adults, $11 for seniors and students.