Last updated December 14th 2015

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Tomorrow. It’s a wonderful word:  encompassing all we hope, and all we fear. Tomorrow is the place that we travel to, taking with us all we know to confront and create an unknown future. Tomorrow Utopia – the Tel Aviv International Fantastic Film Festival – will open, with films, lectures and workshops from December 8 – 15, 2015.

Today Festival Founder and Director Uri Aviv issued a letter stating that this will be the final edition of a festival that has made a significant contribution to the local culture scene over the past decade.  Why? Because The Ministry of Culture decided not to support the festival, and a festival simply cannot survive on enthusiasm alone. Will there be more Utopia festivals in the future? I don’t know, I hope so.

Fans of Science Fiction, Fantasy, speculation, innovation and dreamers everywhere, let’s show our support for the festival and come out in great numbers to have  fun!

The opening film is Anomalisa, a stop-motion adult animated film, winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Venice, directed by Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson. Puppets for the film, created with 3D printing, and voices by Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tom Noonan, and David Thewlis, tell the story of Michael Stone, author of a popular book on customer service, a lonely guy who has trouble connecting. When he lands in Cincinnati to give a book talk and encounters Lisa, things happen. Variety called this one a “cerebral cult offering” – I’m in.

The complete list of films can be seen on the festival website (in English) via this link.  I really recommend seeing The Brand New Testament. The film is anything but restrained or subtle, taking on the Bible with no holds barred. Jaco Van Dormael offers the viewer with a provocative, alternative vision of God and life, presented in a wildly imaginative tale. Forget Eden, the world was created in Brussels, and God is anything but benevolent.

Played with panache by Benoit Poelvoorde, God is a shallow, selfish, brute, who invents horrors and plagues to relieve his boredom. How is this accomplished? Virtually, of course, via the all-powerful computer he keeps locked away in his study. Verbally and physically abusive, he terrorizes his meek wife (Yolande Moreau) and daughter Ea (Pili Groyne). Yet the star of this film in every way is Ea, who in her charming innocence is determined to save the world, with the help of some good advice from her older brother JC. Like any child of this era, Ea is far more adept at the computer than dear old Dad, she sneaks into the study, hacks in, and proceeds to make mayhem.
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eyond the irreverent, yet nonetheless thought-provoking answer to the eternal question “why is there evil in the world?” – The Brand New Testament probes the equally intriguing question of the balance between destiny and free will. Ea launches a program that sends everyone a text message informing them of the precise time, although not the mode, of their death. Cue mayhem. What would you do if you knew exactly how much longer you had left to live? The ensuing adventures are at times extremely bizarre, yet always inventive and visually compelling as Ea tunnels down to earth through a laundry chute (I always thought those contraptions were suspiciously mysterious) to seek out her own apostles and rewrite history as herstory.

Another bizarre yet oddly satisfying offering is The Lobster, which presumes a world of compulsory coupling, and stars Colin Farrell. Get ready for strange.

Festival events will take place at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, Israel Animation College and Beit Ariela Library. The full program of events and daily schedule is available on the festival website.

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