The Cemetery Club

97 Minutes, 2006
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Directed by: Tali Shemesh
Production:Assaf Amir, Guy Lavie
Production Company:Norma Productions, Tel Aviv
Photographer: Sharon De Maio
Languages: Hebrew, Polish
Subtitles: English, Hebrew

The Mount Herzl Academy is a gathering of elderly Jews; Holocaust survivors of Polish descent who, for the past 20 years meet once a week at a Jerusalem cemetery, armed with cushy folding chairs and all the food supplies you could need. There, at Mount Herzl, they debate, read poetry, and discuss a host of current affairs. At the start of the film, one of them reads out the Mount Herzl Academy rulebook: 1. The group shall convene in the summertime, every Saturday. Meeting location – Mount Herzl. 2. Each member is to bring their own folding chair. 3. The group has a democratically-elected Chair whose role it is to propose a range of conversation topics, e.g. current affairs, scientific lectures, literature excerpts, and so forth. 4. The purpose of the meetings: curtailing one’s loneliness in old age…”
Director Tali Shemesh spent five years documenting this group whose members also include her own grandmother, Minya, and auntie Lena. Through the film, the pair’s unique and complex relationship unfolds whilst around them is a group united by a shared past, but also a present which sees its members’ numbers steadily dwindling. The film won the Best Asian Documentary Award at the Shanghai International TV Festival, and a Best Documentary award at DOK Leipzig. The film took home top honours at Prague’s One World Film Festival with Shemesh winning her Best Director category, whilst at the DocAviv Festival, it clinched two awards for Most Promising Director and Best Cinematography. The Cemetery Club toured many festivals worldwide, including the Cannes Film Festival and the IDFA.

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