DocAviv ’18: Portugali film a highlight of Israel’s world-renown documentary film festival

DocAviv (Israel’s world-renown documentary film festival which ran from May 17-26) is an annual screening of more than 110 new documentaries from Israel and abroad, making it one of the leading documentary festivals worldwide. As FF2 Media’s Israeli contributor, I am proud to report on a memorable film made by a woman filmmaker at this year’s 10-day-long celebration of documentary cinema. Hopefully this film will make its way to festivals and theaters worldwide in the next few months. Here is a sneak peek of my top pick from DocAviv ’18.

And the alley she whitewashed in light blue

Directed and edited by Israeli architect Nili Portugali, And the alley she whitewashed in light blue follows a little girl running through the alleys of Tzfat, a city in Northern Israel. Symbolizing her childhood memories, Portugali narrates her life story to fill in the missing pieces.

Portugali’s storytelling ability is impressive as she uses the child as a lens of her own life, making viewers understand the early influences on her career. She tells her story from an adult’s point of view, comparing the buildings and their surroundings to buildings she designed later in life, remembering details from her childhood synagogue to incorporate into her architectural work as an adult.

Images from around the world weave in beautifully throughout the film. Portugali gives us the full spiritual feel of her childhood in the old and holy city with this comparison to other holy cities, noting their resemblance and adding her interpretation. There are not many people featured as the film focuses mostly on buildings and inanimate objects, following their use around the seasons and Jewish holidays. Although a smart way to tell the story, it can get repetitive at times. Yet, when you can feel the filmmaker’s reminiscent tone and her message of what makes a place feel like a home.   


Another notable film from the festival (not made by a woman, but centers on a woman) is The Long Season by Leonard Retel Helmrich. It tells the story of Madjal Anjar, a Syrian refugee camp in the Beqaa Valley in Lebanon. In the middle is the story of a new bride, coming as a second wife to the father of a big family. The camera follows her close, as she explains bitterly she only got married to run away from the horrors of ISIS. Her husband’s first wife makes her life hell and she doesn’t know which hell is worse. The sensitive eye of the director manages to capture the women, men and children of the camp at their most intimate and humane moments. It is heartbreaking but also mesmerizing. I was enchanted from first shot to the last.

Doubtful by Eliran Elya, which isn’t a documentary but is based on a true story.

Eliran Elya’s Doubtful (not a documentary for the festival, but a notable exception) is a fantastic cinematic creation. Based on a true story, the film tells the story of Assi, a film teacher who’s forced to volunteer with disturbed teenagers as a punishment from court. As the teacher finds himself getting close to one of the boys, he absent-mindedly blurs the line between his job and his personal feelings. The tangled, complicated plot is filled with emotions as they pull each other into their worlds; staggering work with a final climactic scene that will stay with viewers for a long time.

© Eti Or (6/18/18) FF2 Media

Photos: And the alley she whitewashed in light blue courtesy of DocAviv film festival

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