Reel Israel: Annual Israeli Documentary Film Series


The REEL Israel Documentary Film Festival brings examples of the very best recent Israeli documentaries to the Triangle. Over the course of five days, viewers will see award-winning and critically acclaimed films that explore Israel from angles rarely seen in the news: heart-wrenching stories about family and friendship, life and death, and revelations of the past.  

The filmmakers offer sober examinations of their country’s historical and social challenges. The films differ from each other aesthetically and thematically, but share the common goal of unearthing the multi-faceted perspectives and complex realities that lie beyond the headlines of Israel today: the story of a Palestinian child living in an Israeli hospital with his grandfather; the relationship between two sisters, one of whom became a nun; a veterinary hospital for wild animals: a Bedouin family residing for many years in a Jewish town who seeks to bury the mother in a local cemetery; and the recent discovery of discriminatory immigration practices in the early days of Israel.

Films were selected by Duke University Professor and film scholar Shai Ginsburg who notes, “These documentaries present viewers with rare glimpses into the everyday experiences of marginalized communities, and the struggles of various ethnic, religious, and political movements to survive and thrive in the complex experiment of creating a Jewish and democratic society.”  

Post-film discussions will be scheduled with Professor Ginsburg and other scholars.


  • Benefactor Passes: $500
  • Sponsor Passes: $225 Dual/$180 Individual, available through March 4
  • $10 Individual
  • $8 Chelsea Members

For ticket information, please call (919) 929-8428 or visit: Seating is limited.


The Ancestral Sin, 2017 (88 minutes)

A film by Doron Galezer, David Deri, Ruth Yuval.

Sunday, March 10 • 7 pm | Wednesday, March 13 • 3:20 pm | Thursday, March 14 • 5:00 pm

This story of Israel’s “development towns” is a chilling documentary, never told before: Testimonials and previously sealed transcripts reveal an ideology and a cruel practice of law enforcement and decision makers behind the “population dispersal”policies in the first two decades of Israeli independence.The director’s family, like others, was taken to Yeruham, a development town in the Negev desert. Their personal stories recount the price immigrant- families pay and the price still paid by Israeli society, unwilling to deal head-on with those early years and forgotten towns.


A Sister’s Song, 2018 (80 minutes)

Directed by Danae Elon; written by Danae Elon and Nancy Guerin.

Sunday, March 10 • 10 am | Monday, March 11 • 5:30 pm | Wednesday, March 13 • 7 pm

Can we ever truly now what is in a loved one’s heart? This is the story of two sisters, Marina and Tatiana, who live separated by a choice that Tatiana made when she became a nun and changed her name to Sister Jerusalem. Marina, who has barely seen or spoken to her sister in twenty years – senses that something is now wrong; she journeys to the monastery to try and find her sister. A dramatic turn of events sets them both on a path to where neither of them knows will lead.


Wild, 2018 (60 minutes)

Directed by Uriel Sinai and Daniel Elpeleg.

Sunday, March 10 • 11:40 am | Monday, March 11 • 7:10 pm | Wednesday, March 13 • 5:30 pm

Patient-doctor relationships are always complex, but when the patient cannot talk or make decisions for himself it becomes particularly complicated. This is the everyday reality for the protagonists of this film: Ariella, a veterinarian, and Shmulik, the chief caretaker of a wildlife hospital. Through love and Sisyphean labor they try to treat their patients, as they are confronted with issues that are also applicable to life outside the clinic walls. Is every life a life worth living? When does help ultimately prolong the suffering? And most of all, when is the right moment to let go?


In Her Footsteps, 2017 (75 minutes)

Directed by Rana Abu Fraiha.

Sunday, March 10 • 1:30 pm | Tuesday, March 12 • 7:20 pm | Thursday, March 14 • 3:20 pm

In the middle of the night, Rana’s parents left the house her father had built in their Bedouin village and moved to Omer, a bourgeois Jewish town located only three miles away.After 10 years of dealing with breast cancer, her mother’s only wish was to be buried in Omer. The town never dealt with the issue of where to bury its Arab residents. The film documents an entire family torn between fulfilling the mother’s last wish and social codes that cannot be ignored.


Muhi – Generally Temporary, 2017 (86 minutes)

Directed by Rina Castelnuovo-Hollander and Tamir Elterman.

Sunday, March 10 • 3:30 pm | Tuesday, March 12 • 5:30 pm | Thursday, March 14 • 7:15 pm

For seven years, Muhi, a Palestinian child from Gaza, has been living in an Israeli hospital, watched over by his Palestinian grandfather and an Israeli humanitarian and peace activist. Both men, having lost sons due to conflict and war, formed this extraordinary friendship with the goal to secure a future for Muhi, whether in Israel or Gaza. Muhi’s future is a tug-of-war of pressures between the Israeli hospital, his Gaza family and the inevitable surrounding politics.

Shai Ginsburg
Shai was born & raised in Beersheba, Israel. He teaches Israeli and Jewish culture, literature and Israeli documentary cinema at Duke University. He also writes film reviews for the online magazine Souciant. For the past ten years, he has organized the Kehillah film series of Israeli documentaries.

The REEL Israel Documentary Film Festival is a collaboration between the Chelsea Theater, Kehillah Synagogue, Duke University & the Israeli
Documentary Filmmakers Forum, and is made possible through generous donations by David & Adele Roth and Stan & Marion Robboy.