From March ’08 Spotlight: Israeli director Adi Refaeli is on her way to Chicago for two special Women’s History Month programs. The first one will be at the Landmark’s Century Center Cinema in Lincoln Park on Saturday afternoon March 29. The second one will be at the Landmark’s Renaissance Place Theatre in Highland Park on Sunday afternoon March 30. Local sponsors include Hadassah’s Chicago Chapter and the Metropolitan Chicago Region of ORT America, with support from Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest (based in Chicago).

At each program, Refaeli plans to introduce her film Empathy before it screens, and then take questions from the audience afterwards. Empathy’s runtime is just 39 minutes, but in that brief time, Refaeli manages to introduce over one dozen characters. She obviously doesn’t have time to create complex back stories, but in each case we learn enough to apprehend motivation, even when some of the actions are reprehensible. These characters also speak multiple languages (Arabic, Hebrew and Russian), helping us to appreciate the great diversity of contemporary Israeli society.

Photo Credit: Sel Yackly (3/29/08)

I saw Empathy for the first time last fall when it screened once at the Wilmette Theatre during our 2007 Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. I liked it so much that I named it my “Top Pick” in the Shorts category. Others obviously agree. Empathy has since been screened at numerous other film festivals both here and abroad, and when she leaves Chicago, Refaeli will do another program at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC before returning home.

For tickets, visit www.ortchicago.org or call 312.663.5832. Reservations are strongly encouraged. Walk-ins will only be accommodated if space is available.

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