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Israel Film Festival

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Presented by IsraFest Foundation, Inc., the Israel Film Festival runs Saturday through Thursday, April 28 through May 3, at Landmark's Century Centre, 2828 N. Clark. Tickets for most programs are $9, $6 for seniors; weekday shows before 6 PM are $6. Festival passes, good for five screenings, not including special events, are $35. For more information call 773-248-7744 or 877-966-5566. Films marked with a 4 are highly recommended.

SATURDAY, APRIL 28

Yellow Asphalt (Three Desert Stories)

In this series of interlocking tales (2000), Israeli writer-director Danny Verete portrays the Bedouin people with the clear eye of a seasoned journalist, neither demonizing nor sentimentalizing them. Each story explores friction between Arab and Israeli (or Arab and European) culture: in "Black Spot" (released as a short film in 1994) an Israeli truck driver finds himself the target of tribal justice when he accidentally runs over a young Bedouin boy on the highway; in "Here Is Not There" (released in 1997) a German woman chafes against the will of her benighted Bedouin husband; and in "Red Roofs," a callous Israeli farmer carries on an adulterous affair with his Bedouin maid. A natural storyteller, Verete avoids both melodrama and moralizing, his simple but beautiful tales nicely rendered by Yoram Millo's unobtrusive cinematography. 85 min. (Jack Helbig) (7:30)

Clean Sweep

Based on Limor Nachmias's best-selling novel Tweedle'dee, this slick 2000 police thriller emulates both Quentin Tarantino and Elmore Leonard with its numerous plot twists and double-crosses and its decidedly amoral collection of criminals, eccentrics, and cops. Like Tarantino, director Oded Davidoff mixes comedy, intense violence, and moments of outrageous sexism in this story of a murderous crime lord (Gal Zaid) who runs afoul of an attractive if slightly neurotic undercover agent (Yael Hadar). At times the heroine seems more obsessed with finding the perfect orgasm than with bringing the villain to justice, yet the film may offer enough cheap thrills to keep you entertained for 90 minutes. (Jack Helbig) (9:30)

SUNDAY, APRIL 29

Sallah

A good-natured 1965 Israeli comedy about an Asian immigrant's attempts to adjust to the local way of life, which happens to include work. As in Fiddler on the Roof, Topol plays a man much older than himself, and does it well. Directed by Ephraim Kishon. 110 min. (DK) (1:00)

Kippur

Amos Gitai served in a helicopter rescue unit during the 1973 Yom Kippur war, in which Egypt and Syria launched a surprise attack on Israel, and this moving autobiographical film presents war not as hell but as chaos. The historical fiction of the lone hero seizing ground and winning the war on his own has no place here--the unit's chopper is ultimately disabled by a Syrian missile--and there's comparatively little blood and gore. Gitai uses long takes to show the rescuers stumbling through the mud and static shots as they quietly converse between missions; the lack of close-ups forces his characters to share the frame, linking their fates and leaving no one in control. 120 min. (FC) (3:00)

Reaching for Heaven

Three episodes from a new TV series in which a talent agent suddenly embraces Orthodox Judaism, putting a strain on his marriage and his friendships. In the first segment his therapist wife, trying to follow suit, is frustrated in her attempt to bathe at the mikvah; in the second the son of a strict rabbi asks her for help in escaping his father's ironclad rules; and in the last the kids are rattled by their parents' impending divorce. The direction is pedestrian and the acting overwrought, but at least the show's creators, Shalom Mashiach and Assef Amir, are willing to tackle important cultural and political issues. Yankul Goldwasser and Ron Ninio directed. 80 min. (TS) (5:15)

Time of Favor

A good-hearted Israeli soldier becomes enmeshed in a radical rabbi's plot to blow up the Dome of the Rock on Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Though this 2000 political thriller is based on a true story, it's overwhelmed by movie cliches: the soldier and his best buddy, a sensitive yeshiva student trying to make himself over into a soldier, both fall for the rabbi's daughter, who rebels against her father's plan. Worse yet, the story unfolds so slowly that every plot twist is telegraphed well in advance. Even the action-packed ending, in which the rabbi's militia clashes with the Israeli army, falls flat. Joseph Cedar directed; with Aki Avni, Assi Dayan, and Tinkerbell. 100 min. (Jack Helbig) Tickets for this "opening-night" screening are $100; regular ticket prices apply at repeat screenings, Tuesday through Thursday, May 1 through 3. (7:30)

The Investigation Must Go On

A detective investigating an armed robbery falls in love with the wife of his prime suspect. Marek Rozenbaum directed this 2000 police drama from a script by Haim Marin. With Moshe Ivgi. 94 min. (9:30)

MONDAY, APRIL 30

Grandma Operation and Farewell My Cousin

Two films made for television, each running 50 minutes. In Dror Shaul's comedy Grandma Operation (1999) everything that can go wrong does as three brothers try to arrange a funeral for their grandmother. In Sharon Amrani's Farewell My Cousin (2000) an army officer convicted of treason for selling military secrets to Iran escapes from prison and returns home looking for hidden money. (3:00)

Facing the Forest

An archaeology student on a dig discovers "a rare coin, a dead body, and a deadly secret hidden by shifty locals and Arab workers." Daniel Wachsmann directed this 2000 thriller. 96 min. (5:15)

4 Is Jerusalem Burning?: Myth, Memory and the Battle of Latrun

The Israelis' resounding defeat at the battle of Latrun looms large in the history of the 1948 War of Independence: trying to open the road to west Jerusalem, 6,500 ill-trained Israeli soldiers were routed by 1,200 Jordanians, and the fact that many of the Israelis were recent draftees, some liberated from Nazi concentration camps, made the incident even more notorious. Chuck Olin and Matthew Palm's fascinating, evenhanded TV documentary (2000) examines all aspects of the debacle, including the myriad aftershocks and the hasty but ultimately successful plan to build a second road to west Jerusalem. Using archival footage and contemporary interviews with veterans, the film is as gripping as a good war picture and as absorbing as a well-written work of military scholarship. 52 min. (Jack Helbig) Olin and Palm will attend the screening. (7:15)

The Bourgeoisie

A group of middle-class friends trying to get ahead is the focus of this 2000 romantic comedy derived from three episodes of a TV series. 95 min. (9:30)

TUESDAY, MAY 1

Liar Is the One Who Is Happy

A most unusual documentary (2000) about the suicide of 17-year-old Einat Geva. Director Itzik Lerner builds on old interview footage of Geva as well as her boyfriend, family members, neighbors, and teachers; shot by a young film student, it reveals a bright but petulant child prone to depression and self-destructive acts. The film's tone becomes more ominous when later interviews, conducted by Lerner, examine Geva's death and the blame game that followed, raising the issue of whether the first filmmaker encouraged her to take her own life. The final shot, in which an image of Geva reading a poem is superimposed over her gravestone, is both haunting and rather ghoulish. 51 min. (TS) On the same program, Gonen Glaser's It Will End Up in Tears (2000, 50 min.), about a young woman bringing her lesbian lover home to meet her family. (3:00)

5 Love Stories and Rita

Two 2000 documentaries: David Ofek's 5 Love Stories (57 min.) explores the way love changes with the passage of time, and Shiri Shachar's Rita (50 min.) profiles Israeli pop-music diva Rita Kleinstein. (5:15)

Time of Favor

See listing for Sunday, April 29. (7:15)

The Investigation Must Go On

See listing for Sunday, April 29. (9:30)

WEDNESDAY, MAY 2

The Battle of Tel Hai and Kapo

Two television films. In Oded Ruskin's drama The Battle of Tel Hai (2000, 43 min.) an old man in a nursing home recalls his past experiences with Joseph Trumpeldor, the Zionist warrior who died defending a Jewish settlement in 1920. Dan Setton and Tor Ben Mayor's documentary Kapo (2000, 59 min.) uses personal testimony to examine the complicity of some Jews in the Holocaust. (3:00)

Reaching for Heaven

See listing for Sunday, April 29. (5:15)

The Bourgeoisie

See listing for Monday, April 30. (7:30)

Time of Favor

See listing for Sunday, April 29. (9:30)

THURSDAY, MAY 3

5 Love Stories and Rita

See listing for Tuesday, May 1. (3:00)

Yellow Asphalt (Three Desert Stories)

See listing for Saturday, April 28. (5:15)

Clean Sweep

See listing for Saturday, April 28. (7:15)

Time of Favor

See listing for Sunday, April 29. (9:30)

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