Celebrating The Bar Mitzvah at TLVFest

When Eytan Fox, the director of the comedy webseries The Bar Mitzvah, which will be shown at this year’s TLVFest, the Tel Aviv International LGBT Film Festival, needed someone to play an American woman on a plane, naturally he thought of me.

I had never acted before, but since one of Israel’s top directors was convinced I could handle three lines of dialogue – eventually expanded to four – I was up for the challenge.

Be the first to know –

All kidding aside, the screening of The Bar Mitzvah will be one of the highlights of this year’s TLVFest, which runs at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque until June 9. The Bar Mitzvah will be screened on June 3 at 8 p.m. at the Cinematheque and will be broadcast on June 8 on Mako.

The series was written by Gal Uchovsky, Fox’s husband and longtime professional partner, and Ilan Peled, the beloved Israeli comedian and singer.

The webseries, which is also available on the Blackpills app, will be presented at the festival as a tribute to Uchovsky, an acclaimed screenwriter and producer (on such films as Eytan Fox’s Walk on Water and The Bubble), journalist, LGBT activist and television presenter. He will also receive an honorary award, as will acclaimed American indie film producer Christine Vachon (Carol, Boys Don’t Cry).

Peled is in his element in the webseries as Lilly, an outrageous and often unscrupulous event planner, who is hired by a gay New York couple, Jozen and Seth (Elon Gold and Dan Clark), to throw a lavish bar mitzvah for their son, Angel (Sahar Lev-Shomer), nicknamed Angelina, in Jerusalem. In this broad comedy, Lilly takes them to Jaffa, insisting it is really Jerusalem. The two dads are so busy hoping that this will be the perfect opportunity for Angelina to come out as gay, they don’t notice at first that they are nowhere near the Holy City, and more disturbingly, that their son is falling for Lilly’s daughter (Noy Shlain).

Add to the mix Seth’s tipsy and tactless mother, Hillary (Amanda Barrie, who played Alma on Coronation Street), as well as Instagram phenomenon Eliad Cohen as a random gorgeous guy who keeps popping up wherever they go, and things get really crazy. There are also a lot of songs, including Peled doing his Adele impression.

Although I had seen Ilan Peled in commercials, my first glimpse of him on the set was in the parking lot, where a scene was being filmed next to Lily’s van. It was a chilly day in November and Peled, in his brightly colored dress and blond wig, was a bit cold. The crew fluttered around him, making sure he was comfortable, and his larger-than-life presence dominated the set.

The foreign actors – Gold, Clark and Barrie – may have seen more lavish makeup rooms and dressing rooms on other projects, but if they felt like they were roughing it in Tel Aviv, they gave no indication.

Shooting moved from the parking lot to a hangar at the airport where the interior of a plane cabin that is used by El Al flight attendants in training would be available to the film crew.

Getting her makeup touched up before the scene on the plane – my big scene – Barrie asked if it would be safe to go to Jerusalem for the weekend. There had been forest fires that week, but I assured her that the main road would be passable.

“Splendid,” she said.

Gold, dressed in a flowered shirt, ran lines with me and pronounced that I was ready. He is a world-famous standup comedian and actor, so that reassured me. In our scene, which is near the beginning of the first episode, he walks around the plane and starts chatting with me, telling me about his son and showing me pictures on his phone. Of course, as we filmed, the phone was actually blank, but I channeled my inner memories of cute kids to react appropriately.

We went through several takes, and Fox decided it was time to move on.

I sat with the extras and marveled at Barrie’s husky voice and comic timing as she filched liquor bottles from the flight attendant’s trolley. The flight attendant was played by Ori Laizerouvich of the television series Shababnikim, although here, it was Barrie who made all the trouble.

During the many breaks for lighting set ups and other technical matters, Gold, who has been to Israel to perform many times, talked about looking forward to spending Shabbat in Jerusalem and about what the incoming American president (this was filmed a few weeks after the 2016 elections) would do to the world of stand-up comedy.

The filming went on till after 10 p.m., and finally the exhausted cast and crew were able to exit the fake plane and go home.

The Bar Mitzvah is just one of the many films that will be shown at TLVFest. The opening night movie will be Israeli director Tali Shalom-Ezer’s English-language My Days of Mercy, starring Kate Mara and Ellen Page, about the romance between the daughter of a death-row inmate and a woman who opposes her family’s political cause.

Other films will include 120 BPM, Robin Campillo’s drama about Parisian activists’ response to the AIDS epidemic, starring Nahuel Pérez Biscayart, which swept the Cesar Awards, and Sebastian Lelio’s Oscar-winning drama about a transgender woman, A Fantastic Woman.

As always, there will be many parties and special events, so go to the festival website at http://tlvfest/tlv/he/ en/ for the full program and to order tickets.