And the winner is… Human Resources Manager

September 23, 2010 - 7:33 PM by · 3 Comments
Filed under: A New Reality, General, Israeliness, Life, Movies, Pop Culture 

A scene from Ophir-winning 'The Human Resources Manager'

Yes, the presentation of the Ophir Awards – Israel’s equivalent to the Academy Awards – is like watching a Mahane Yehuda tomato vendor getting forced to dress up in a tuxedo for the night. But given that the budget for the show, which took place on Tuesday night at the Jerusalem Theater and was broadcast across the country, is a fraction of what Hollywood invests into their annual self-congratulatory fest, the Israelis didn’t do too badly.

Eran Riklis’s The Human Resources Manager was the big winner at the awards, winning Best Picture and Best Director for Riklis. In addition, the film’s Rosina Kambus won Best Supporting Actress and Noah Stollman won for Best Screenplay (which was based on an A. B. Yehoshua novel), and it also picked up the Best Soundtrack award.

And most importantly, the film, which tells the story of a Jerusalem factory manager who goes to Russia to bury a foreign worker killed in a terrorist attack, will now go on to be Israel’s official entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

Last year, the film “Ajami” became the third Israeli movie in a row to be nominated in the foreign language category as one of the final top five films. In 2008, Waltz With Bashir was nominated, and previous year the film Beaufort was nominated – but none of them received the award.

According to Jerusalem Post film critic Hannah Brown, approximately 65 countries submit films for consideration in this category each year, “so the fact that Israel has made it to the final five for three years running is an amazing achievement. However, no country has received more than three consecutive nominations since 1980, which means it is unlikely (but not impossible) that Israel will be back in Hollywood again in 2011.”

Human Resources Manager beat out front runner, Nir Bergman’s Intimate Grammar, based on a novel by David Grossman
about a sensitive boy who stops growing. The Riklis film recently won the Audience Award at the Locarno Film Festival and competed in the Toronto International Film Festival.

The three other nominated films were Avi Nesher’s The Matchmaker (formerly called Once I Was), The Flood and Revolution 101, but the race was always between Riklis and Bergman, according to Brown.

Whatever the results, the evening proved that as uncomfortable the Israeli film industry is in aping the glitziness of Hollywood, it’s just as skillfull at making first class films that will continue to impress audiences around the world.

International Mayumana ensemble’s capital premiere

June 5, 2009 - 12:03 PM by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Art, General, History and Culture, Israeliness, Pop Culture, Profiles 

MayumanaWith all the talk in recent years about Israeli popular music exports, it’s easy to forget that there are plenty of Israeli entertainers in other realms who have been enjoying growing successes overseas. The world over, there are plenty of Israeli illusionists, dub bassists, jazz saxophonists, supermodels and even boxers - you name it.

When the percussive Mayumana dance troupe got started 13 years ago, many dismissed it as a local knockoff of international sensation Stomp. Now the ensemble maintains a busy schedule touring worldwide. Today Mayumana employs 100 people globally and has starred in ads for brands like Fiat and Coca Cola. Last week, the ensemble premiered Momentum, its new show, for local audiences of thousands at the Jerusalem Theater, under the framework of the Israel Festival.

Ha’aretz recently interviewed Tel Aviv-born Mayumana co-founder Boaz Berman as well as producer Roy Ofer, who joined the team shortly after its launch.

Ofer believes that the key to Mayumana’s success has been the way that he makes sure to keep things in-house:

“We have our own people who we work with, and we rarely involve people from the outside. On tours abroad, we have our own way of doing things. We don’t just perform and leave. We performed in Madrid for eight months, we were in New York for six months, and so on.”

Berman, meanwhile, remembers the early days fondly:

“Our goal was to put on a show that would be different from anything else out there. We were so fired up that we were sure we’d succeed. The people who worked with us then did it for free, because they all believed in us. We worked all day every day, and when we had enough material we started doing open presentations to friends on Wednesdays, which evolved from week to week.”

But according to Ofer, it’s unfair to call Mayumana a “troupe,” when so much more comes into the performances:

“In a troupe, the members all do one specific thing – dancing or drumming or whatever,” Berman explains fervently. “With us, everyone does everything, even though on the face of it they’re completely disparate – one is a professional dancer, another is the national archery champion, another one’s an actor, this one’s a contortionist. Our job is to unite them. It’s a group of people, not a troupe.”

Hey, man. Whatever terminology you prefer. Just keep doing whatever it is that you want to call what you’re doing, because people seem to like it.

Nostalgia Sunday – The “Fashion Show” exhibit

November 16, 2008 - 6:07 PM by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Art, General, History and Culture, Nostalgia Sunday, Pop Culture 

Costume: Italian Straw Hat - Gila Lahat
An unusual and important exhibition opened this past week at the Jerusalem Theater. “Fashion Show” is a retrospective of costumes from the Hebrew-language stage, dating from 1922 to the present day. Some of the costumes are original, others were recreated from sketches and photographs.

This is the first exhibition of its kind in Israel and was a huge collaborative labor of love between the theaters, AMBI – the local branch of OISTAT (the international union of theater professionals), archives, museums, designers, researchers and private collectors. There are works by visual artists who sometimes contributed to the stage — Nahum Gutman, Natan Altman, Yossele Bergner, Moshe Mokady and David Sharir to name a few — as well as those costume designers less-known to audiences abroad.

Costume: Hanna Rovina in The Dybbuk

Here, for example, is the dress worn by legendary HaBima actress Hanna Rovina, in “The Dybbuk”. In her time, Rovina — “First Lady of Hebrew Theater” — and HaBima were so identified with the play that her character, Lea’leh, in long tresses and flowing white gown, became the theater’s logo for awhile.

Costume: She Stoops to Conquer - Lydia Pincus-GaniThis dress from “She Stoops to Conquer” is by Lydia Pincus-Gani, one of the country’s foremost stage and costume designers in the 1960s and 1970s.

I studied with Lydia at Tel Aviv University in the 1980s, and she was not one to be trifled with. We’d slave for weeks over a maquette (a scale model of a stage set) and bring it, shaking and trembling, for Lydia to review. She’d stare at it, hunched over, centimeters of slow-burning ash dangling precariously at the end of a cigarette hovering above delicate bits of carton and balsa wood…

And then… flick! Somehow, most of the soot made it onto the floor. “What is this kakamayka?”, she’d ask, referring derisively to some nonsensical balustrade or extraneous stairway. (For bulky objects there was “What is this plonter?). Those who made it through the first year of her reign of terror benefited by being made her assistant on various shows at HaBima or the Cameri, and some of her students became the designers whose work is now on display.


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