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 The Philippine Embassy in Israel, in partnership with the Film Development Council of the Philippines (FDCP) and Cinematheque Tel Aviv, Cinematheque Jerusalem, and Cinematheque Haifa, will launch the first Philippine Film Festival in Israel in Cinematheque Tel Aviv on Sunday, 08 July.


The festival will open in Cinematheque Tel Aviv with On the Job, a gritty crime thriller which premiered worldwide at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013 and was received with a standing ovation at its first screening. Joel Torre, who won a Best Actor award for his performance at the 17th Puchon International Fantastic Film Festival in Bucheon, South Korea, plays Mario Maghari, a convicted felon who carries out contract killings during his incarceration to earn money to support his family.


Three other films will be shown during the film festival. On 15 July, Cinematheque Jerusalem will screen An Open Door, a documentary about Philippine President Manuel Quezon’s policy to create a safe haven in the Philippines for Jewish refugees from the Holocaust. The film, one of multi-awarded filmmaker Noel Izon’s trilogy of Forgotten Stories from World War II, has won numerous international awards, including Best Picture/Best Documentary wins in Madrid, Sochi, Bali, London, Java, and St. Petersburg.


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On 22 July, Cinematheque Haifa screens Smaller and Smaller Circles, a screenplay based on a Filipino crime novel – the first of its genre in the Philippines – that won both the Carlos Palanca Grand Prize for the English Novel and the National Book Award. In this gripping whodunnit, two Jesuit priests who also perform forensic work find themselves in a search for a serial killer, and in the process end up confronting class conflict, corruption, and religious dilemmas.  


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The film festival wraps up on 29 July in Cinematheque Tel Aviv with Die Beautiful, a comedy-drama that takes off from a transgender beauty queen’s final request to be made up as a different celebrity during every day of her wake. As friends trickle in to pay their respects, they look back at the events that preceded her death, and celebrate her journey to discovering and living as her true self. The film, which debuted at the 29th Tokyo International Film Festival, won the Audience Choice Award and netted lead actor Paulo Ballesteros a Best Actor Award.


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"We're excited and proud to be holding the very first Philippine Film Festival in Israel," Ambassador Neal Imperial declared. “Philippine cinema has been undergoing a renaissance in the past decade, and we’ve seen some truly well-made films emerge during this period.


“This film festival is also, in a way, our tribute to the Filipino woman, who – as the Chinese proverb goes – ‘holds up half the sky’, as a member of our society and as a creative force to be reckoned with. Two out of three of our films feature screenplays written by women, which were groundbreaking in their respective genres – On the Job and Smaller and Smaller Circles. Our final film, Die Beautiful, explores Filipino society’s views on gender, and – when it screened in Manila – opened up many difficult but necessary conversations on how we view men, women, and those who do not fit into the gender binary.”


The Philippine Film Festival will run from 8 July to 29 July, and includes the following films:


8 July (Tel Aviv) – On the Job, screening at Cinematheque Tel Aviv at 8:00 pm. For tickets, visit https://www.cinema.co.il.


15 July (Jerusalem) – An Open Door: Holocaust Haven in the Philippines, screening at Cinematheque Jerusalem at 8:45 pm. For tickets, visit https://www.jer-cin.org.il.


22 July (Haifa) – Smaller and Smaller Circles, screening at Cinematheque Haifa at 8:30 pm. For tickets, visit https://www.haifacin.co.il.


29 July (Tel Aviv) – Die Beautiful, screening at Cinematheque Tel Aviv at 8:00 pm. For tickets, visit https://www.cinema.co.il.


 Photos courtesy of the Philippine Embassy