Encouraging cinema

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Offering a break from the political and armed conflicts that colour the international community's view of Israel, the 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok and the Israeli embassy have collaborated to offer a special survey of contemporary Israeli cinema.

The diverse selection, celebrating 60 years of Israeli-Thai diplomacy, has stories of cross-cultural connections with "A Matter of Size", about an overweight dishwasher taking up sumo wrestling and "Noodle", in which an Israeli airline attendant finds herself caring for a little Chinese boy. There are comedies, "Cupcakes", with colourful young hipsters taking part in a talent contest; and "The Band's Visit", about an Egyptian police band that ends up stranded in a small Israeli town. And family dramas unfold in the much-acclaimed "Footnote" and the classic "Aviya's Summer".

"We've always had strong Israeli films in the past, but this year the embassy wanted to do a bit more, because of the 60th anniversary of Israeli-Thai diplomatic relations," says World Film Festival of Bangkok director Kriengsak "Victor" Silakong.

State support of cinema in Israel goes back to 1954, when the Knesset passed the Law for the Encouragement of Israeli Films. "The Israeli government has a strong support structure for filmmakers, both new and old, and including the Palestinian side," Victor notes.

The selection of six films runs from 1988's "Aviya's Summer" up to last year's hit comedy "Cupcakes".

Winner of the Silver Bear at the Berlin fest, "Aviya's Summer" is set in 1951, during the early days of the Israeli state, with a 10-year-old girl being raised by a single mother who is still traumatised by her experiences fighting as a partisan in World War II. It screens at 3pm next Wednesday and 1pm on October 24.

On the lighter side is "Cupcakes", a comedy about a close-knit group of Tel Aviv hipsters who gather to watch the "UniSong" TV talent show. Less than impressed with the Israeli entry, they decide to record their own song on a mobile phone. Soon, the clip goes viral and the friends are reluctantly thrown in to the spotlight when "UniSong" comes calling. It screens at 1pm on October 24.

A favourite of Bangkok audiences in the past, "The Band's Visit" returns. From 2007, the much-acclaimed winner of eight Ophir Prizes from the Israeli Film Academy is the wry tale of a ceremonial police band from Alexandria, Egypt, who due to a translation error, is left stranded in small Israeli desert town. What follows is a night of quiet happenings and confessions as the band makes its own impact on the town and the town on them. It screens at 1pm on Tuesday and 3.20 on October 24.

Back to the serious side, there's 2011's "Footnote", a "must see" according to Victor. Directed by Joseph Cedar ("Beaufort", "Time of Favour"), "Footnote" follows the rivalry between father and son, both religious scholars competing for the same award. It was honoured for best screenplay at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival, was a nominee in the foreign language category at the Oscars and won nine Ophir Prizes from the Israeli Film Academy. Its screens at 1pm on Sunday and on October 26.

From 2009, "A Matter of Size" has an overweight man taking a job as a dishwasher in a Japanese restaurant. There, he's exposed to the world of sumo wrestling, and he convinces his boss Kitano to teach the sport to him and his overweight friends. It won the Audience Award at the Karlovy Vary film fest and picked up three prizes from the Israeli Film Academy, including best actress and supporting actress. It screens at 1pm on Tuesday and 5.30pm on Thursday.

And there's "Noodle", a 2007 drama in which the Chinese maid of an Israeli airline attendant is suddenly deported, and is unable to explain she has a small child with her. It's up to the flight attendant to figure out a way to reunite the boy with his mother in Beijing. It screens at 5.40pm on Wednesday and 3pm on Thursday.

Promised land

The 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok runs from October 17 to 26 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld.

Tickets cost Bt120. There are 500 special packages offering five movies for Bt500.

The festival will also come to SF cinemas in Khon Kaen from November 7 to 9, Pattaya from November 14 to 16 and Chiang Mai from November 20 to 23.

Find out more at www.WorldFilmBkk.com.