/ AJT //

 

AJFF 2014 LogoAftermath

 

One of the most controversial Polish films ever made, “Aftermath” is a harrowing mystery-thriller based on the real-life cover-up of a Jewish massacre at the hands of Catholic Poles.

After decades living in Chicago, Franek is prompted to return to his ancestral family farm by news that his estranged younger brother Józef has come into conflict with fellow villagers. Upon his arrival, local peasants greet Franek with much hostility. As they repair fraternal ties, the brothers literally uncover half-buried secrets and disturbing historical clues that ultimately lead to an appalling revelation.

 

Created by acclaimed filmmaker Władysław Pasikowski, “Aftermath” sent shockwaves throughout Poland, forcing the country to confront a long history of virulent anti-Semitism. Nominated for seven Polish Academy Awards, with wins for Best Acting and Set Design, it is also the winner of the Yad Vashem Chairman’s Award at the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

 

Before the Revolution

 

Challenging misperceptions of life-long enmity in Iranian-Israeli relations, “Before the Revolution” recounts the dramatic final days of a utopian existence by Israelis living in Tehran.

The film recounts a time when Iranians and Israelis wined and dined together as pragmatic trade partners. Thousands of Israeli professionals lived in luxurious comfort thanks to a cozy relationship with the oil-rich and corrupt Iranian regime. But everything changed with the arrival of the Islamic revolution. What begins as a nostalgic look back at the glory days becomes a suspenseful thriller, as the Israeli expatriates flee to safety in the face of shifting political dynamics and rising turmoil.

 

“Before the Revolution” is the unknown story of a close-knit community caught in a historic uprising that forever changed the Middle East region.

 

Bethlehem

 

“Bethlehem” is an intricate, tick-tock cliffhanger centered on the tragic relationship between an Israeli intelligence officer and his Palestinian informant.

 

Sanfur, a hot-headed Palestinian teenager feels overshadowed by older brother Ibrahim, a local hero wanted for orchestrating suicide bombings in Israel. Conflicted and vulnerable, young Sanfur is exploited by Israel’s Shin Bet security service and fatherly intel agent Razi who establishes a fragile bond with him. As an Israeli plot to assassinate Ibrahim heats up, loyalties are tested and pressure mounts.

 

Nominated for 12 Israeli Academy Awards, “Bethlehem” garnered wins for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actor and Best Editing.

 

Big Bad Wolves

 

A string of grizzly child murders puts a trio of characters on a collision course in “Big Bad Wolves,” an edge-of-the-seat revenge thriller.
After a girl goes missing in the woods and is later found beheaded, suspicion immediately falls on a timid religious studies schoolteacher who is arrested but released due to a police blunder. Frustrated by the lack of justice, a renegade cop and the victim’s vengeful father take matters into their own hands by capturing, interrogating and tormenting the accused killer. Their diabolical rage quickly spins out of control in a series of unpredictable plot twists that ingeniously toy with audience emotions and subvert genre tropes.

 

Dancing in Jaffa

 

Just when peace in the Middle East appears hopeless, there is “Dancing in Jaffa,” a joyous realization of one man’s seemingly impossible dream to see Israeli and Palestinian children dance together.

 

World champion ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine returns to his birthplace of Jaffa, a deeply divided society simmering with intractable ethnic and religious animosity. There, he dedicates himself to teaching ballroom dancing to grade-schoolers to confront the more difficult issues of prejudice and political violence. Over the course of four months, the debonair works tirelessly
 to challenge the entrenched beliefs of parents and teachers, while inspiring the reluctant boys and girls to overcome their own shyness and cultural fears. As they rehearse for a citywide competition, historical archenemies find commonality through shared applause.

 

The German Doctor

 

A distinguished foreign physician with a sinister obsession for genetic purity upends the lives of an unsuspecting Argentinean family in “The German Doctor.” Eva and Enzo are preparing to open a cozy lakeside hotel in a remote Patagonia town when the family first encounters the charismatic doctor along a long desert road. With mother Eva pregnant with twins, and her 12-year-old daughter mercilessly teased about her stunted size, the family becomes interested in the nefarious doctor. Unaware of the danger, they accept him into their home, until a local archivist and photographer suspects the town is harboring one of the world’s most infamous war criminals.
At turns eerily gripping and thought provoking, the visually striking drama is a meditation on the complicity of those who sheltered the Nazi elite in postwar South America.

 

God’s Slave

 

Motivated by personal tragedies, two obsessive characters on either side of the Arab-Israeli conflict are set on a collision course in “God’s Slave,” an adrenaline-rushing drama set against the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Argentina.

 

Filmed on location in Argentina, Venezuela, Uruguay and the United States, the taut action is skillfully helmed by Venezuelan filmmaker Joel Novoa. Walking a tightrope of sympathies,

“God’s Slave” exposes the appalling cost of extremist acts carried out in the name of religious conviction.

 

Ida

 

An exploration of personal and national reckoning, “Ida” is told through the story of a young novitiate nun in early 1960s Communist Poland.

 

The angel-faced Anna is on the brink of taking her vows when the Mother Superior insists she make contact with her only living relative. Emotionally remote Anna is met by her boozy, free-living aunt Wanda, an embittered ex-prosecutor of so-called enemies of the state. An offhand revelation about Anna’s true identity sets in motion a road trip through the Polish countryside during which these two strikingly different characters confront family secrets and postwar demons.

 

Hanna’s Journey

 

Unexpected complications arise when a young German student travels to Israel to escape her country’s tragic past, in “Hanna’s Journey.”

 

Headstrong Berlin business major Hanna heads to the Holy Land to volunteer with the mentally disabled as a way of proving herself and boosting her résumé. Her contact in Israel is brusque social worker Itay, who baits Hanna with Holocaust jokes, while openly flirting with her. Initially offended, she slowly becomes more interested in both German and her own family history, not to mention the man who set her onto this path of self-discovery.

 

In Hiding

 

An increasingly obsessive relationship forms between a young Polish woman and the Jewish refugee she is sheltering in “In Hiding,” a shocking psychosexual thriller.
Upending the conventions of wartime dramas, “In Hiding” is a Hitchcockian exploration of destructive human emotions that can lead desperate people to renounce all moral inhibitions and commit dreadful acts.

 

In The Shadow

 

A simple jewelry store heist unravels a larger Cold War conspiracy against Czechoslovakian Jews in “In the Shadow,” a political thriller.

 

Honest police detective Jarda Hakl is directed to investigate a seemingly mundane robbery at a goldsmith’s shop on a rainy night in 1950s Prague. When state secret police suddenly seize control of the case and pin the crime on Jewish immigrants accused of running aid to Israel, Hakl suspects anti-Semitic scapegoating. Waging an uphill battle against both an East German agent specializing in so-called Zionist crime and the Soviet-corrupted Czech security apparatus, Hakl is undaunted in his quest for the truth.

 

Kidon

 

A zippy and sleek piece of popcorn entertainment, “Kidon” imagines the cloak-and-dagger puzzle behind the real-life assassination of a Hamas leader.

The tongue-in-cheek action begins when Mahmoud al-Mabhouh is found dead in a Dubai hotel room. The local police immediately blame the Mossad and release security tapes showing what appear to be red-handed Israeli agents carrying out the killing. The shocking story makes international headlines, but no one is more shocked than the Mossad: they have never heard of these agents or their mission. The Mossad soon realizes that it is just one player in a high-stakes con game involving a conspiracy of diplomats, goons, and spies from France, Russia and Iran.

 

Next Year Jerusalem

 

A rollercoaster of emotion sure to elicit laughter and tears, Next Year Jerusalem follows a group of spunky senior citizens on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land for one last great adventure.

Surmounting the daunting physical and emotional challenges of the transformational trip, the travelers return to the day-to-day realities of institutional living, having demonstrated that even near the end, there is still much life to be lived.

 

Omar

 

Catastrophic choices threaten to consume a young lovelorn Palestinian caught between both sides of the occupation in “Omar”, a punch-in-the-stomach political thriller from Hany Abu-Assad.

 

His West Bank village split by Israeli’s separation wall, Omar is accustomed to scaling the physical and metaphorical concrete divide in order to visit Nadia, his secret love interest and sister of childhood friend Tarek, a Palestinian militant. Bereft of any options, Omar is forced to betray his friends or accept unending blackmail by the Israelis. The film’s nihilistic coda will leave stunned audiences contemplating the endless cycle of violence and retribution in the Palestinian territories.

 

The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers

 

Based on the book by Ambassador Yehuda Avner, “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers” is a captivating account of Israeli politics as told through the iconic leaders of the Jewish

State.

 

As adviser to five Israeli Prime Ministers, Avner was privy to life-and-death decision-making, top secret military operations, diplomatic in-fighting and high-level peace negotiations. Drawing from his bestselling memoirs, the film illustrates personal anecdotes and never before revealed historical details with a dazzling array of archival images. Oscar-winning director Richard Trank traces such key events as the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars, the fight against terrorism, and Israel’s close strategic alliance with the United States.

 

Run Boy Run

 

A superlative saga of courage and compassion, “Run Boy Run” tells the extraordinary true story of a Polish boy who seeks the kindness of others in his solitary struggle to outlast the Nazi occupation and keep alive his Jewish faith.

 

An unforgettable cinematic experience featuring exceptional performances, arresting cinematography and transcendent musical score, “Run Boy Run” is directed by Oscar-winner Pepe Danquart and based on the bestselling Holocaust novel by Israeli author Uri Orlev.

 

Transit

 

The plight of an extended Filipino migrant family living in constant fear of deportation from Israel is poignantly captured in “Transit”, the acclaimed directorial debut of Hannah Espia.

Set in and around Tel Aviv amidst an immigration crackdown by Israeli authorities, the story crosscuts between the intermingled lives of these desperate expatriate workers and their Israeli-born children of mixed identity.

 

The Wonders

 

Based on the book by Ambassador Yehuda Avner, “The Prime Ministers: The Pioneers” is a captivating account of Israeli politics as told through the iconic leaders of the Jewish State.

As adviser to five Israeli Prime Ministers, Avner was privy to life-and-death decision-making, top-secret military operations, diplomatic in-fighting and high-level peace negotiations. Oscar-winning director Richard Trank traces such key events as the Six Day and Yom Kippur Wars, the fight against terrorism, and Israel’s close strategic alliance with the United States.

 

The Zigzag Kid

 

The son of the world’s greatest detective embarks on a rollicking adventure to solve the mystery of his true identity in “The Zigzag Kid”, a family-friendly, action-packed adaptation of the beloved book by Israeli writer David Grossman.

 

Growing up without a mother, life is not easy for Dutch 13 year old Nono Feierberg. But the boy’s overactive imagination and mischievous stunts constantly get him into trouble. Sent away on the eve of his bar mitzvah to be set straight by his uncle, Nono meets his father’s nemesis, master jewel thief Felix Glick who whisks him off on a secret mission to the French Riviera. With only 24 hours to go until his rite of passage, the race is on for Nono to put his detective skills to work and complete the high-stakes quest that will change his life forever.