The Cinema South Film Festival concluded this weekend in Sderot, with an awards ceremony for films created by students and alumni from Sapir College. Held in the shadows of the deadly mortar shell attack in Kibbutz Nir Oz and the daily Qassam threat the city faces, the event's organizers had a difficult time keeping their fears in check, but to everyone's relief it turned out to be a joyous occasion.
Scene out of first place film, "Last Day"
It isn't easy to keep the festival tradition going while red alarms echo throughout the region on a daily basis. "The question is how we can continue to create in such an injured environment and how, in the moment of grace the festival bestows, can we create an alternate world?" asked Avner Feinglernat, organizer of the festival and head of the film department at Sapir College. He was speaking to the alumni gathered in the Sderot cinema hall just moments before the winning film was announced.
The awards, which included grants for future films, were handed out by the Israel Film Council to southern students and alumni from Sapir College. The panel of judges this year included New York director and manager of City College's film school Andre Krakowski, and artist Josef Dadon.
The panel decided to award the NIS 10,000 (about $3,000) first prize to the film "Last Day", which one of the judges described as "dealing with universal and Israeli subjects such as immigration, anti-Semitism, and profound human estrangement. We felt that the director showed the maturity and control deserving of a full-length movie."
The guest judges also remarked that this year's festival clearly encapsulated the essence of the place in which the college functions. "There are no words to express how impressed I am with what I have seen here," Andre Krakowski commented.
"I hope the alumni of the school I manage achieve the level of the films I have seen in Sderot. It's even more impressive when you think about the difficulties with which the students must contend. I am happy to be a part of this family."
Josef Dadon shared Krakowski's enthusiasm. "From an artistic perspective," he said, "it is most impressive that the films deal with social, local, universal, and political agendas while always looking towards the other inside of us, and to the place we have come from, the security situation, and the conflict."