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SCREENING ROOM

'Newland' to Open Israeli Film Series

October 03, 1994|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The 11th annual Israel Film series will open Thursday at the Music Hall, but will be launched Wednesday at 7 p.m. across Wilshire Boulevard at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences with a gala premiere of Orna Ben-Dor Niv's "Newland."

Both this film, which will receive three more screenings, and Leonid Gorovets' "Coffee With Lemon" (Saturday at 5:30 p.m.) deal powerfully with the immigrant experience in two different eras--and both suggest that Israel is no earthly paradise.

A leisurely, poetic film, "Newland" is set in a rural refugee camp in 1950, where a 14-year-old boy, Yan (Michael Phelman), and his 7-year-old sister, Anna (Ania Bukstein), have arrived from Eastern Europe and are hoping to locate their mother somewhere in Israel. In the bleak atmosphere of the ramshackle camp, Yan, mature and resilient beyond his years, looks to the future while little Anna clutches the past as tightly as her ragged teddy bear.

As a commentary on the impact of war upon children, "Newland"--actually, "New Land" would be a far more sensible title--brings to mind the classic "Forbidden Games." The film's ending is totally surprising and confounding, and it expresses a decidedly ambivalent view of Israel.

"Coffee With Lemon" opens with a Russian actor, Valery (Alexander Abdulov), receiving a standing ovation in a large and elegant theater. Tall, handsome and charming, he later looks out from a skyscraper tower over Moscow, realizing that in a sense he's king of all he surveys. However, at that very moment he's preparing to renounce his theatrical throne, for he's afraid for his wife and small son to the extent that he has decided they must emigrate to Israel as the Soviet Union is on the verge of crumbling.

Housed in a mobile home that is part of a stark mountaintop settlement on the outskirts of a major city--it's either Jerusalem or Tel Aviv--Valery again has a spectacular view--but he has come to a place where he has some renown but can't speak Hebrew, which he finds difficult to master.

Eventually reduced to doing a vaudeville turn as a curtain-raiser for his friend from Russia, who has developed a phony psychic act, Valery's boyish high spirits and hearty sense of humor begin to fail him; before we are barely aware of it, "Coffee With Lemon" has become progressively darker. This splendid film's finish offers a different kind of jolt from that of "Newland."

Dan Setton's taut and comprehensive documentary, "The Hunt for Adolf Eichmann" (Thursday at 7:30 p.m.), manages to make suspenseful a real-life undercover operation of which we already know the outcome. Setton meticulously tracks what happened to the elusive Adolf Eichmann, one of the principal architects of the Final Solution, and his eventual sighting in Argentina years after the end of World War II.

Setton combines a masterful use of the camera with the words of the men involved in the kidnaping of Eichmann in order to put him on trial in Israel; we quite literally retrace every step of the daring, dangerous and ultra-secret operation. Narration by Gregory Peck is superlative in every way, lending dignity and eloquence to a mission of immense symbolic meaning and impact.

Most films will be repeated.

Information: (213) 466-1767.

Resisting Hitler: Michael Kloft's "Widerstand" (Goethe Institute, 5700 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 110), a wide-ranging, consciousness-raising documentary on the largely unfamiliar German resistance to Adolf Hitler, screens in two parts, Tuesday and Thursday at 7 p.m.

It's the first offering in the "Widerstand" ("Resistance") series, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the nearly successful plot to kill Hitler.

Information: (213) 525-3388.

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