The Israeli Premiere screening of Golda took place at the red carpet opening of the 40th Anniversary of the Jerusalem Film Festival (JFF). It is hard to imagine a more dramatic setting for the screening than Sultan’s Pool, an ancient water basin located in the valley just below the lit-up Walls of Jerusalem’s Old City and Mt. Zion.
Prior to the screening, Helen Mirren was presented with a JFF Achievement Award by Guy Nativ, the Film’s Oscar-winning director. JFF Achievement awards were also presented that evening to World renowned director Oliver Stone and the Belgian filmmaker brothers Jean- Pierre and Luc Dardenne.
Guy Nativ, at a press conference earlier that morning, noted “Helen arrived at a challenging time, the screening (of Golda) in Israel is more exciting than the film’s screening at any other festival (location) in the world.”
The “challenging” time Nativ refers to, the real-life “backdrop” of the Premiere, is Israel’s political turmoil. When opening the festival that evening, Roni Mahadev-Levin, JFF Festival Director, stated “39 generations of festivals are behind us. Even during crises, the festival returned every year to a cinematic celebration in Israel and so it will be in 2023 when the threats to the State of Israel accumulate. We are proud to be here, to fight our way for cultural freedom, for normality, and for the freedom of each and every one of us.”
This was not lost on the audience, who chanted “dem-o-cratzia” when the President of Israel, Isaac Herzog, gave his welcome address to the Festival audience.
Helen Mirren, who first visited Israel in 1967 when she came with a Jewish boyfriend and worked on a kibbutz for a month in the North, added her comments about the demonstrations at the morning press conference, “I’m personally moved and excited when I see those huge demonstrations…I think maybe it’s a pivotal moment in Israeli history.”
The movie Golda takes place 50 years ago, focusing on Golda Meir’s life and leadership as the Israeli Prime Minister (first and only woman Prime Minister) immediately before and after the start of the 1973 war (The Yom Kippur War), when a coalition of Arab states, led by Egypt and Syria launched an attack on Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish Calendar. At the same press conference, Mirren said, “Golda is absolutely the most extraordinary character I’ve played, the history, her commitment to the country. A strong woman who was (for me) amazing to explore and dive into her mind and skin.” She added “The (Golda’s) commitment is expressed in a personal, family, political way. Golda was a noble character. She knew that she had to take responsibility, and she did- unlike many other leaders who, when things go pear-shaped, start pointing fingers at other people.” Mirren added, “I think that must have been incredibly painful (for Golda).”
Helen Mirren plays Golda in the film, with the help of impressive make-up giving her the unique look of the Israeli Prime Minister. Meir’s environment has been meticulously recreated down to the last detail, and together with Mirren’s phenomenal acting skills, it is impossible not to be drawn into the whirlwind of the war, among the clouds of cigarette smoke, at the time and place where the fateful decisions were made – all while (Golda) is secretly battling cancer.
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”, “X-Men”) plays the American Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, while Cami Cotten (“10 Percent”) is Lou Kader, Golda’s personal assistant. Alongside them, several Israeli actors star: Lior Ashkenazi plays Chief of Staff David “Dado” Elazar, Rami Hoiberger plays Defense Minister Moshe Dayan, Dvir Bendak plays the head of the National Security Agency Eli Zaira, Rotem Keenan is the head of Mossad Zvi Zamir and Ohad Knoller is Ariel Sharon, the commander of Division 143.
Golda will be released to movie theaters in the US on August 25, 2023.
JFF – A World Class International Film Festival
Jerusalem itself, providing its own lens on history, religion, and diversity, is a unique location for an international film festival. The red carpet premieres in Sultan’s Pool, always in the presence of world-renowned film producers, directors, and stars, is just the festive start of the 10-day Festival. Every year JFF presents a rich and comprehensive artistic program that includes more than 200 films from 50 countries, dozens of festive premieres of the outstanding Israeli films of the year, and films that have won awards in leading world festivals such as Berlin, Cannes, Venice, and Sundance. The diverse program provides moviegoers a unique opportunity to see international films as well as the premiers of outstanding Israeli films, features, docs, and shorts, that often do not get to the big screens in the US.
During the Festival, in between the multiple screenings, there is a special buzz and excitement when film lovers, directors, and producers alike mingle in the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s gardens, which also offer a dramatic view of Jerusalem’s Old City Walls. This year, JFF attracted 70,000 film lovers, directors, and producers from around the world as well as the avid Israeli film goer.
Next Year in Jerusalem: Mark your calendar for the 41st Jerusalem Film Festival July 18-28, 2024
Story and photos by Karen B. Hoffman
New York Jewish Travel Guide