“Flawless” star Stav Strashko is the first transgender actress nominated for the Ophir Awards (aka Israeli Oscars).
“Flawless” star Stav Strashko is the first transgender actress nominated for the Ophir Awards (aka Israeli Oscars).

Sonoma Israeli film fest kicks off with ‘Flawless,’ acclaimed teen drama starring trans actress Stav Strashko

The Sonoma County Israeli Film Festival — presented for the fifth straight year by the JCC of Sonoma County — is coming to the Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol on four Tuesdays in March.

The festival’s four films will highlight themes such as gender identity, love and aging and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. One film will be shown per week, on March 3, 17, 24 and 31, at 1 and 7 p.m. each day.

“It’s a wonderful collection, with award winners, celebrated directors and more,” promises Irène Hodes, the Sonoma JCC’s director of film festivals and cultural events.

The marquee offering is most likely the Bay Area premiere of “Flawless,” a 2018 drama that was nominated for 12 Israeli Oscars, including best picture, and won for casting, costume design and makeup.

Starring Stav Strashko, the first transgender woman to be nominated for best actress in the Ophir Awards (aka the Israeli Oscars), the film is a coming-of-age drama about a group of high school girls who are lured into a shady international plot involving organ donation in exchange for cosmetic surgery.

“I consider it both an excellent film, and one with quite relevant and important subject matter,” Hodes says of the 97-minute film, which was originally titled “HaNeshef” in Israel.

In Hebrew, Russian and English with English subtitles, the film will be shown twice on March 3 to open the festival, with a panel discussion (featuring speakers from the local LGBTQ community) following the evening screening.

Skipping a Tuesday, the festival will return March 17 with the award-winning “Tel Aviv on Fire.” This dark comedy from 2018 — which skillfully walks a fine comedic line in regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — is in Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles.

The 96-minute feature imagines a Palestinian man whose job as an assistant on the set of a popular Palestinian soap opera balloons to that of key writer. When he is stopped at an Israeli checkpoint on his commute to Jerusalem, an Israeli officer insists on having input into the script.

The festival will wrap up with “The Other Story” on March 24 and “Love in Suspenders” on March 31. Both are in Hebrew with English subtitles.

The former dramatizes the true story of two young women — one raised secular, the other from a Hasidic family — who long to experience the other’s way of life. The latter is a romantic comedy involving a 70-something widow and a widower who meet in a car crash.

All screenings are at Rialto Cinemas, 6868 McKinley St., Sebastopol, at 1 and 7 p.m. Tickets and passes are $11 and $40 (for matinees) and $14 and $52 (for evening shows). For more details or to purchase tickets, visit jccsoco.org/filmfestival.

Laura Pall
Laura Paull

Laura Paull is J.'s Culture Editor, and was a longtime J. freelance writer before that.