The big gay Israeli film festival that could

TLVFest, Tel Aviv’s annual gay and lesbian film festival, proved a welcome escape from the peculiar past two weeks and, among other eclectic fare, showed us the Bible as we’ve never seen it before.

The eighth annual TLVFest, Tel Aviv’s gay and lesbian film festival, doled out awards Saturday night to the best flicks screened over the past week and a half. It was a triumph not just for the individual winners but also for the festival itself, which almost didn’t happen after the Culture and Sports Ministry threatened to pull funding in January.

Eventually, though, “They decided to hear us – they listened to us,” said Yair Hochner, the festival’s founder and artistic director, who said that the festival ended up receiving more money this year than ever before from the ministry. “Now we are safe.”

And for that, the LGBT community is grateful. It has, after all, been through a strange and confusing two weeks, what with the high of the Pride festivities mixed with the major low of shocking revelations in the 2009 shooting at the Barnoar LGBT youth center.

The 80 feature-length films and 120 shorts screened during the fest – which attracted more than 10,000 viewers – explored themes of love, sexuality, self-discovery and small moments of triumph, many with a good dose of spicy humor. During a difficult week, it was a cathartic blend.

A taste of it arrives in New York in a few weeks when Hochner brings his 2008 feature-length film “Antarctica” to the Tribeca Film Center on July 2. “Antarctica” follows a crew of attractive gay men and women on a raucous night in Tel Aviv, which is, basically, every night. A Q&A with Hochner will follow.

Who needs a salary?

Hochner is the type to sacrifice all for his artistic baby. He doesn’t pay himself for his work on the festival, though to do so would be a common and acceptable use of funds and he would be more than justified.

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