Israeli film wins prize at Berlin festival


BERLIN (JTA) — An Israeli short film won second prize at a Berlin festival.

"Hayerida" ("The Descent"), by Shai Miedzinski of Tel Aviv, took the Silver Bear Award at the Berlinale International Film Festival.

Shot in the Negev desert, it shows a family in search of the perfect stone for the grave of their son. The film is permeated with the sounds of clinking stones, wind and sand.

Miedzinski, who was born in 1979, told the audience at a festival screening that he had lost his father 10 years ago and wanted to make a film about coping with the death of a loved one. He ended up casting his own sister, his mother and her new boyfriend in the film.

"It’s hard to depict grief, a transition for a family," the jury noted, "but the director listens to the wind blow and frames the emotion.”

"Budrus," a U.S. production by Brazilian-born filmmaker Julia Bacha, won second prize in the Panorama Audience Award. One of several documentaries dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "Budrus" documents the largely nonviolent protest by residents of a Palestinian village when construction of Israel’s security fence threatens to destroy their olive groves and cemetery grounds.

Two controversial films dealing with World War II history caused a stir at the festival.

"Jew Suss: Rise and Fall," a major production by director Oskar Roehler, fictionalizes the story about the 1940 anti-Semitic propaganda feature film "Jued Suess" by German director Viet Harlan. Roehler’s film was roundly booed; critics blasted its unreflected portrayals of anti-Semitism and fake details, such as a Jewish wife for the main character.

"Portrait of the Fighter as a Young Man," by Romanian director Constantin Popescu, tells the story of World War II-era nationalist Romanian fighters around Ion Gavrila-Ogoranu. The American Jewish Committee Berlin office issued a statement accusing the filmmaker of "distorting history [and] ignoring the anti-Semitic and anti-democratic nature of the film’s main character." The Romanian-based Elie Wiesel National Institute for Studying the Holocaust had urged the festival not to include the film.


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