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Big in Japan by: Iris Georlette,


Udi Aloni’s film Forgiveness did not win any awards at last week’s Tokyo Film Festival, which ended Sunday, but that didn’t stop it from being the most talked-about film at the festival.

This wasn’t the first time an Israeli film attracted such attention: In 2002, Broken Wings took first prize at the festival. Forgiveness deals with such loaded topics as the Holocaust, the Deir Yassim massacre, and the intifada.

The Israeli delegation, including director Udi Aloni, producer David Silber, and Giora Eini of the Rabinovich Foundation, also attracted attention. Itay Tiran, who starred in the film and was originally scheduled to be at the festival, couldn't make it because he is currently playing in Hamlet, which was no doubt a disappointment for many local women.

Aloni, who gave interviews to East Asian media from Japan, China, Hong Kong, and other countries, told Ynet he received a warm reception from the Japanese, who “praised our abillity to deal with painful things.”

The audience at the screening included Japanese journalists as well as Muslims, who participated in a discussion held afterwards. Local residents, mostly Japanese but also many Israelis, gave the film a warm reception. While some Israelis also welcomed the festival’s Israeli delegation, others had difficulty with the film’s take on events.

Forgiveness also caused problems for Israel’s Tokyo embassy, which is anticipating PR fallout from the political issues discussed in the film.

Forgiveness is an Israeli-American co-production. Does the fact that it’s in English help its chances of being distributed abroad?

“The use of English is definitely not a commercial decision, it’s an artistic decision,” says Aloni. “I love Hebrew with all my heart, but this is a mythic film, a Greek tragedy. Language creates the necessary distance.”

Will the film be distributed commercially in Japan? So far, according to Silber, “Forgiveness” is scheduled for distribution in Canada, England, and France, but not in Japan, though Israeli films have been distributed there in the past. Eskimo Limon (Lemon Popsicle), for example, was extremely successful in Japan, and its stars became idols.
The Japanese were very interested in knowing why the film had its premiere in Ramallah.

According to Aloni, “It should have been in Jerusalem, but the Second War in Lebanon broke out and my Palestinian friends couldn't get there. That’s why it was decided to hold the premiere in Ramallah.” Giora Eini adds that “although this was a problematic decision in business terms, we decided to go with it.”

Following the screening Aloni answered questions from the audience. A Saudi Arabian commented that the film focused on the human aspect of things, leaving politics in the background, and added that he hoped to see more Arab artists in the field.

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