Alex Bernstein Student Documentary Film Production Prize to be Awarded to Outstanding Film Students at the Jerusalem Film Festival

Alex Bernstein Student Documentary Film Production Prize

Alex Bernstein Student Documentary Film Production Prize to be Awarded to Outstanding Film Students at the Jerusalem Film Festival

This week, the Jerusalem Foundation kicked off the 7th annual Alex Bernstein Student Documentary Film Production Prize, in partnership with the Gesher Film Fund. The prize, in memory of Lord Alex Bernstein, a lover of cinema and of Jerusalem, nurtures Israel’s next generation of documentary film-makers. At a special pitch event, which took place in the framework of the Jerusalem Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, five finalists from throughout the country pitched their films to prestigious judges from the film industry: Director Uri Rosenwaks, Channel 10 Deputy Content Director Zivit Davidovich, and Film Distributor Phillipa Kovarsky.

The prize has become one of Israel’s most prestigious award for student documentary film productions, with one of 2015 winners going on to win a student Oscar award. The prize’s prestige was reflected in the high caliber of the five finalists, which were also notable for their diversity:

“I Am Not a Robot,” by Lina Tzivian, is an animated film about conformity and individuality in today’s society, presenting a beautiful breathtaking collage of footage from the internet.

 “Almost Liam,” by Sapir Rokeach, focuses on the film-maker’s cousin, a trans man navigating his gender identity in relation to his identity as a religious person.

 “The Freer of Prisoners,” by Alex Asaiev and Gal Peretz, which takes its name from a phrase in the morning blessings recited in Jewish daily prayers, shares the story of a blind man from an ultra-Orthodox background seeking a new life as a member of secular society.

“Malkah, Malkah,” by Maya Yavin, is the film-maker’s exploration of her relationship with her grandmother Malkah,  starting from the prism of her uncle’s death, incorporating both documentary footage and staged scenes with family members, such as a humorous reading of a poem about a Chinese general, which her grandmother performs while making the bed.

“Shira Tama” is the name of a 12 year-old girl who was evicted from the settlement of Amona, which was destroyed by the Israeli government after a protracted legal battle. The film, by Shir Huri, is both a coming of age story, and a story of politics and the meaning of home, both for individuals and for communities.

After the pitches, the audience was treated to a screening of last year’s winners:

“Mamushka,” by May Abadi Grebler, tells the story of Melody, a 25-year-old who is kicked out by her mother.

“Swimming Against the Current,” by Assel Abou Hjoul, tells the story of Iyad Shalabi, a member of the Israeli Paralympics Swimming Team.

“My Cousin Tami,” by Tomer Asayag, tells the story of Tami, a young girl who falls deeper and deeper in love with Gabi, who pulls her deeper and deeper into the world of drugs.

All three films were beautiful and harrowing. By the end of the screening, there was not a dry eye left in the room. The film-makers came on stage afterwards to give a few remarks. May Abadi Grebler thanked everyone involved with the Bernstein prize for making her feel that she was not alone-that someone cared about the story she wanted to tell.

The screening was followed by cocktails to celebrate the debut of three high-quality documentary films that will surely contribute to Israel’s burgeoning film scene.

This year’s winner will be announced on Thursday, July 20th, during the special prize-giving ceremony that is a highlight of the Jerusalem Film Festival, eagerly awaited by Israel’s film industry, as well as film-makers and press from around the world.

The Jerusalem Foundation would like to thank the Bernstein Family for their generosity in creating this prize, which nurtures Israel’s next generation of film-makers.

Stay tuned for updates on this year’s winners!