It’s a girly party – but everyone is invited. Israeli Film and TV Festival Seret (which means ‘film’ in Hebrew) is coming to London this month and as it’s the 12th year of the festival the organisers are claiming this as their ‘bat mitzvah’ and have a female-focussed week-long agenda. Seret, which launched in 2012, is an independent, non-political, non-religious, all-inclusive charity and hosts festivals in Germany, Netherlands, Chile, and most recently Argentina in 2022.
My conversational Hebrew has improved over the past decade through watching films such as Oscar-nominated Waltz with Bashir and notable tv series including Shtisel and Fauda. Israel is emerging as a frontrunner in the foreign film industry and the shows’ stars have become international household names. As the biggest Israeli film festival in the world, Seret brings Israel’s top actors, directors and filmmakers together to showcase their work and participate in Q&A sessions.
This increase in popularity for Israeli films has brought to the forefront a diversity of cultures, religions and social backgrounds and this raised awareness is encouraging a change in perception plus an opportunity to open your mind to stories you may not have discovered through mainstream film.
With big plans to grow the festival and make it a firm fixture in other territories such as Greece, Seret is flourishing. However, the fact remains, Seret is a charity and its very success relies on the support of generous donors and sponsors.
The driving force behind Seret has always been the fierce determination of its female co-founders Odelia Haroush, CEO and Patty Hochmann, Artistic Director. They bring their individual skills to the partnership with Odelia on the strategic side (such as raising funds, design, printing and client services) and Patty on the artistic side – her detailed knowledge of Israeli film and TV is unmatched. “We work well as a duo and we always choose the films together,” says Odelia. We also have an international team and a local producer for the festival in each country.”
Film releases have different appeal in each territory. Odelia had this to say: “New films are always being released and because we understand our audiences really well, I would say about 70% of films shown are the same throughout the territories and the other 30% are those that are new to market based on the release dates throughout the year or possibly aimed at that specific demographic.”
The exclusive opening night gala features a private viewing of Asaf Kobrovsky’s comedy of errors, Hummus Full Trailer, a satirical crime story starring Michael Mochonov. The hilarious story involves three freight trailers that have been smuggled into Israel and following a mistake in the harbour – oya broch, these things happen – the story brings together an unlikely alliance of Arabs, Orthodox Jews, and a gay couple who must all join forces to solve the mix-up. Showcased films are then screened at various cinemas including Everyman Muswell Hill and Belsize Park and the festival also branches out further afield to cinemas in Cambridge and Brighton.
With a packed agenda of films, and only a week to see them all, it’s a tough decision to know which ones to go and see. Neighbourhood favourite Everyman Belsize Park is showing writer and director Shiri Nevo Fridental’s All I can Do, featuring Ania Bukstein, one of Israel’s top actresses, who starred in Game of Thrones. The story follows a young prosecutor taking over a sexual assault case, giving us a glimpse into the world of female attorneys in Israel, highlighting the challenges faced by women turning to the legal system.
Whilst Seret’s focus is very much on film, Odelia notes of the rise in interest for Israeli TV shows: “The tv content coming out of Israel is simply amazing and we really wanted to highlight that. Last year we held a one-off event in February to celebrate Israeli tv.”
With the main theme for the festival this year being ‘Women in the Film & TV Industry’, many of the showcased films are either directed by, played by or produced by women.
In what began as a seedling idea to run a competition for film schools, the idea flourished and the concept returns for a second year – and this time is all about girl power. Odelia explains: “We invited the Israeli Film schools to submit their short films and received hundreds. The five winners were then shown at our festival. It proved so popular and was such a fantastic way for up-and-coming students to get involved with the festival, that we are repeating the open call and in line with our theme, the focus is naturally on women, so it’s a female-only selection this year.”
Hundreds of entrants were considered across a range of criteria by a discerning panel of highly respected industry professionals, this year’s winners including It’s a Matter of Hours or Days, a story about a girl by her father’s deathbed. Directed by Efrat Lipshitz from Minshar for Art, a school based in the centre of Tel Aviv, judges selected this short for its “precise dialogue, understated style… and masterfully dealing with themes of loss and intimacy”.
Odelia says: “The students receive prize money and are given this huge platform and incredible exposure for their films by having their work shown at our festivals in the UK, Germany and The Netherlands. It’s really important for Seret to nurture this talent as they are the future of Israeli film and TV. This year it’s incredibly exciting that we are carrying our female theme throughout and all of the entries were from female talent.”
Whilst Seret’s theme is all about the ladies, everyone is welcome join the celebrations and experience the best in Israeli cinema, and at this simcha, at least you can choose who to sit next to.
Seret opens on 18 May. To book tickets visit www.seret-international.org
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