Grand moral and ethical questions loom large over this year’s edition of the Israeli Film Festival. While the annual showcase of Israel’s finest recent cinema always offers a peek into the familiar issues unique to the country and the region, many of the highlights from the 2015 festival grapple with more universal themes, albeit with a unique perspective.
This year’s opening night film, “The Farewell Party” (Sat., March 7, p.m. and Sun., March 8, 3 p.m., International House), tackles euthanasia with wry charm. An elderly, amateur inventor crafts a mercy-killing device to help a terminal friend, word of which soon brings entreaties from others in their assisted-living community. Filmmakers Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit maintain a senior-comedy atmosphere without diminishing the issues surrounding death with dignity.
Turning from the end to the beginning, two documentaries look closely at the very stuff of life: “Sacred Sperm” (Thu., March 19, 7 p.m., Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy) questions strict sexual restrictions in the ultra-Orthodox Hasidic community, while “Seed of Life” (Sun., March 22, 7 p.m., International House) follows a grieving mother as she finds a surrogate mother to give birth using sperm saved from her dead son’s body.
“Seed of Life” shares a double bill with another documentary made by Israel’s Channel 10, "A War Story," which examines the struggles faced by TV war correspondents both in the field and at home. It’s one of two films that look at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from a different perspective. The other, "The Green Prince" (Sat., March 28, 9 p.m., Gratz College), is a fascinating, if murky recounting of the story of a Hamas leader’s son who becomes a prized Israeli informant.
"Orange People" (Sun., March 15, 7 p.m., Bryn Mawr Film Institute) centers on three generations of women in Israel’s Moroccan minority culture. The eldest member of the family is either clairvoyant or simply narcoleptic, but is looking for an heir to take over her fortune telling role in their community. Her daughter has inherited the gift/condition, but is more concerned with discovering the secret of her mother’s couscous to save her foundering restaurant.