TAU Grad and Lecturer Wins Big at Sundance

Israeli documentary takes home grand jury prize at world-renowned independent film festival

The Law in These Parts, produced by Tel Aviv University alumnus and faculty member Liran Atzmor, won the Grand Jury Prize for World Cinema at the Sundance Independent Film Festival in Park City, Utah, last month. In its category, The Law in These Parts bested 11 other finalists chosen from over 7,000 submissions.

Atzmor, who graduated from the Department of Film and Television Arts in 1997 and was once the director of TAU's acclaimed student film festival, now teaches production in the department and serves as the faculty supervisor for the festival.

"To win the best prize among these 12 films is really something I can't describe in words," Atzmor confesses.

Behind the scenes in the Palestinian territories

The Law in These Parts provides a behind-the-scenes look at military law in the Palestinian territories over the last four decades, and was inspired by the filmmaker's experiences while shooting his 2001 film The Inner Tour, which documented a group of Palestinians on a bus tour around Israel for the first time in their lives. The filmmakers had spoken with many participants regarding their past arrests for throwing stones at IDF officers, and through this they became interested in the process of the military courts — much of which is unknown to the Israeli public.

Liran Atzmor
Liran Atzmor

For the last decade, Atzmor and his fellow filmmakers, including famed director Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, have been involved with the festival and the associated Sundance Institute. More than ten years ago, The Inner Tour was the first Israeli film to screen at the festival, and they have received grants to support their work from the institute. "We were honored to participate in the festival this year and proud to receive two grants," says Atzmor. "We are very much attached to the values of Sundance and the institute which nurtures our work and documentary film making."

The growing success of his and other international films at this prestigious film festival is a testament to the shift from a focus on U.S. filmmaking to world cinema, Atzmor says.

Local and international resonance

The message of The Law in These Parts echoes across the globe, says Atzmor, noting that the film has provoked discourse in Israeli and elsewhere. "In a post 9/11 world, Americans are opening their eyes to international stories and their connections to local policies. This film has been mentioned in connection with the current debate in the U.S. as to why the Obama administration has not closed Guantanamo as promised," he says. "Our film relates to issues of political prisoners and interrogations, systems of law and occupation, and is very much relevant to the Guantanamo organization and mechanisms."

The film has been screened over 150 times in Israel, eliciting strong reactions from members of Israel's legal system and law faculties, as well as the Israeli army, says Atzmor. It has also gained recognition from the Israeli film industry, winning the prize for Best Documentary at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival.

A new wave of Israeli cinema

In the past decade, Israeli cinema has become internationally known for the quality, artistry, and depth of the films it produces. TAU students and graduates have been a crucial part of this flourishing industry and will continue to be influential, predicts Atzmor. Many Israeli filmmakers cite Late Wedding, directed by TAU graduate Dover Kosashvili, as the turning point where Israeli film began to carve out a place for itself in the wider world, he says.

Atzmor is proud to be a part of the long line of outstanding filmmakers that TAU has produced, he says, delighted by his own contribution to this tradition. "Hopefully we can continue to develop this great interest in Israeli cinema and documentary," he says. An encouraging sign: Barbie Blues, a TAU student film produced on a budget of $800.00, was also accepted for screening at Sundance this year (see http://www.aftau.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=15828 for more details).

For more information on The Law in These Parts, see the film's website: www.thelawfilm.com.


For more arts and culture news from Tel Aviv University, click here.

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