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About the Festival

About The Festival

Lillian Gish & Jeanne Moreau, First JFF, 1984. (Ph.: Eyal Yitzar)

On May 17, 1984, Le Bal, directed by Ettore Scola, opened the first Jerusalem International Film Festival. Over the course of three weeks, about one-hundred films were screened, including Israeli premieres, alongside the year’s best selection of international films. In addition, a distinguished group of guests honored the first festival, among them, the First Lady of Silent Film, Lillian Gish, as well as Jeanne Moreau and Warren Beaty, John Schlesinger, and Andre Delvaux. 

Since then, and throughout the 1980s, the festival's character matured into its present form: the festival is ten days long, screening between 150-200 films in a number of programs: Panorama, showcasing the best of international feature films; Documentary Films, dedicated to international documentary film-making, The Jewish Experience, dealing with issues of Jewish identity and history, In the Spirit of Freedom, concerned with questions of freedom and human rights, Television Dramas, New Directors, and of course, Israeli Film.

Since then, and throughout the 1980s, the festival's character matured into its present form: the festival is ten days long, screening between 150-200 films in a number of programs: Panorama, showcasing the best of international feature films; Documentary Films, dedicated to international documentary film-making, The Jewish Experience, dealing with issues of Jewish identity and history, In the Spirit of Freedom, concerned with questions of freedom and human rights, Television Dramas, New Directors, and of course, Israeli Film.

From its inception, the festival has dedicated a central and unique space to Israeli film, premiering features, documentaries, and shorts. In 1989, the festival granted an official stamp of validity to Israeli film with the introduction of the Wolgin Competition, named after the charitable Jack Wolgin of Philadelphia. Today, the Wolgin Competition grants a yearly award to a full-length feature, a documentary, and a short. The Wolgin Competition became the first stage to showcased the majority of the most important Israeli films of the past two decades. In time, additional Israeli film prizes became part of the festival, including the Film & Television Award in Memory of Anat Pirchi, as well as other prizes and grants for best actors and scripts. These competitions placed Israeli film in the limelight and turned the Festival into an esteemed stage for local cinema. 

Beyond its contribution to Israeli film, the Jerusalem International Film Festival remains one of the few platforms that present the world’s finest contemporary cinematic trends to its local audiences. Over the years, the Festival has screened film debuts by Wong Kar Wai, Tsai Ming-liang, John Sayles, Jim Jarmusch, Stephen Frears, Spike Lee, Quentin Tarantino, Neil Jordan, John Lasseter and other names that have turned into the masters of our time. Many of these directors’ films became regulars at the Festival, and personal favorites with the Israeli audience.

Jack Wolgin (left) and Isaac Zepel Yeshuron (right) at the first Wolgin Awards Ceremony, 1989.

An impressive and exciting group of guests has blessed us with their presence, among them:
Lillian Gish, Jeanne Moreau, Warren Beaty, Marcello Mastroianni, Robert De Niro, the Taviani brothers, Chantal Ackerman, Mike Leigh, Adrienne Shelly, Alan Corneau, Susanne Bier, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Nanni Moretti, Hany Abu-Assad, Anouk Aimée, Fanny Ardant, Alexander Askoldov, Wouter Barendrecht, Jean Pierre Bekolo, Roberto Benigni, Anthony Bergman, Irene Bignardi, Jane Birkin, Jean Claude Brisseau, Ingrid Caven, Veronique Cayla, Roger Corman, Axel Corti, Paul Cox, Kirk Douglas, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne,Steven Frears, Jane Fonda, Geoffrey Gilmore, Christopher Hampton, Michael Haneke, Bob Hoskins, Otar Josseliani, Irene Jacob, Hanry Jaglom, Benoit Jacquot, Chen Kaige, Marin Karmitz, Elia Kazan, Arsinée Khanjihan, Jeroen Krabbe, Ang Lee, Errol Morris, Claude Lelouch, Dusan Makavejev, Terrence Malick, John Malkovich, David Mamet, Chris Marker, Rashid Mashrawi,  Deepa Mehta, Anthony Minghella, Manoel de Oliveira, Nagisa Oshima, Ulrike Ottinger, Ferzan Ozpetek, Jerome Paillard, Lucian Pintilie, Roman Polanski, Sally Potter, Lord Puttnam, Francesco Rosi, Helma Sanders-Brahms, John Schlesinger, Ettore Scola, Delphine Seyrig, Karen Shakhnazarov, Elia Suleiman, Bertrand Tavernier, Guiseppe Tornatore, Liv Ullman, Peter Ustinov, Margharetha von Trotta, Wim Wenders, Michael Winterbottom and many more personalities who brought their stardust, charisma, and wisdom to the Festival.


Beginning with the 1990s, the Festival has been growing and spreading its wings. It has reached out to a wide range of audiences: from open-air screenings in Sultan’s Pool, through avant-garde and innovative works, to professional events catering to the local film industry. Such a variety of events have gradually turned this unique and intimate event into the most important cinematic gathering in Israel. 

This year, the Festival celebrates its 31st anniversary.

Of course, it was wonderful…Jerusalem is always wonderful and certainly the most warm and loving and enjoyable of all festivals.
David Robinson, Director and Critic

I remember the sensation of silence and of light, suspended like mystic vapor over the City of Jerusalem.
Marcello Mastroianni

Roberto Benigni, 15th JFF, 1998
(Ph.: Vera Etzion)


With creative memories from the Jerusalem Film Festival, when the seed between the Moment and Eternity uses the cinematic way, and its spiritual laws to bring people together in a place where every action is blessed by heaven…Thank you for this holy communion.
Andreas Thomopoulos

There are many good festivals all over the world, but the Jerusalem Film Festival is much more than a great festival. Jerusalem is the most important place for the spirit…Here is the source of our soul…the Jerusalem Film Festival gives us this feeling.
Kristo Papic

 Jerusalem is one of the most wonderful festivals I've ever been to.
Emir Kusturica


...finding the radiant sun and the  sparkling nights of this festival which truly is a celebration…emotion, love for the human being, and this great blue planet of which Jerusalem seems to be the spiritual and sensual center…this is for sure the most beautiful festival I have ever seen…
Helma Sanders-Brahms

I am very honored and pleased to have spent these marvelous days at the Jerusalem Festival…a unique warm and easy atmosphere…an important and committed festival.
Michael Verhoeven

 

Heut lieux de spiritualité
filmique.
Jacques Mandelbaum

 

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