The DOCAVIV film festival, currently taking place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, offers a wonderful smorgasbord of documentary films including a variety of styles and surprisingly diverse subjects. Last night, we saw a film called The City of the Dead (2009, 62 minutes, in Arabic) directed by Sergio Trefaut (Portugal/Egypt/Spain) about the literally thousands and thousands of Egyptians who live in the huge cemetery of Cairo. The film featured numerous quirky characters who have learned to deal with the contrasts – weddings and funerals – of this dusty and poverty-stricken existence.
We also attended the premiere screening of an Israeli documentary about Israeli education, focusing on a Jerusalem elementary schoolteacher. The film, Teacher Irena (2010, 52 minutes), directed by Itamar Chen, tells the story of Irena and follows her and her third grade class in the Katamon neighborhood of Jerusalem throughout one entire school year.
Irena, a Russian immigrant teacher, is a lonely single mother, struggling to make a living. She is a motivated teacher and believes strongly that her task is not only to teach the children reading and writing – which she does with tremendous success. She also believes in imbibing a sense of mutual respect, self-confidence and self-discipline. She helps the children with their problems at home, raises the bar on the demands that can be required, and the children fulfill her expectations. Irena is an old-fashioned schoolteacher, the kind who believes in giving all that she's got.
The film includes some memorable moments and a mountain of material concerning educational methods and disciplinary issues.
Distribution information on the film, Teacher Irena, is available from one of the producers, Saar Yogev at email@example.com