There is a good climate for documentaries in Israel. Broadcasters invest more in the genre than you experience in Western Europe, there is public funding and private funds, there are film schools, the festival DocAviv and the unique CoPro, headed by Orna Yarmut, a marketing tool for Israeli documentaries abroad. I was for years involved in the selection of projects to the yearly CoPro pitching forum in Tel Aviv, where films on the development stage are presented to potential buyers from television stations and funds from all over the world.
Several film projects that took part in CoPro sessions are now finished films and can be watched at the Jewish Film Festival in Copenhagen at the Cinemateket January 9-12. Feature films and documentaries are presented with an absolute majority of the latter. Let me recommend some of them:
”Life in Stills” by Tamar Tal is a wonderful, very funny and warm film with a 96 year old grandmother and her grandson, who keeps a photo shop alive in Tel Aviv (closed now, I am afraid). The scoop photos are from the declaration of independence of the state of Israel but the film is first and foremost about the relationship between the two.
”One Day in Peace” by Erez and Mira Laufer, a film that has been touring festivals all over the world, and been subject to endless important discussions. Here is the text about the film taken from its official website: Can the means used to resolve the conflict in South Africa be applied to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict? As someone who experienced both conflicts firsthand, Robi Damelin wonders about this. Born in South Africa during the apartheid era, she later lost her son, who was serving with the Israeli Army reserve in the Occupied Territories. At first she attempted to initiate a dialogue with the Palestinian who killed her child. When her overtures were rejected, she embarked on a journey back to South Africa to learn more about the
country’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee’s efforts in overcoming years of enmity. Robi’s thought-provoking journey leads from a place of deep personal pain to a belief that a better future is possible. Robi Damelin will be present at the screening in Copenhagen.
The charismatic producer Arik Bernstein told me about his for years ongoing project collecting home movie footage from private citizens. The film is screened in Copenhagen and I am curious to see the final result – ”Israel: A Home Movie”, director Eliav Lilti – for sure far from the usual propaganda from the official political Israel.
The – for many – father of Israeli documentary David Perlov (from the site about him: The documentary cinema interests me only if I can turn it into something more poetic. Only then does cinema interest me) is represented with the 1979 ”Memories of the Eichmann Trial”. The description of the film from the Israelfilmcenter’s site: Layers upon layers of memory are laid down in Perlov’s fillm, a unique historical and cinematic document. In interviews that Perlov conducted in his apartment seventeen years after the trial of the notorious Nazi mastermind Adolf Eichmann, survivors, their children and young Israelis all give their perspectives on the impact the trial had on Israeli society’s approach to the Holocaust and its survivors, as well as the manner in which it influences their personal and familial lives.
And of course there is Dror Moreh’s Oscar nominated ”Gatekeepers” (PHOTO), the choice of Cinemateket as ”documentary of the month”. One of the gatekeepers, former ambassador to Denmark Carmi Gillon, will be present at one of the screenings. The film has been reviewed on this website.
PS. A request to the programmers of Cinemateket: Please show on some occasion the latest film by Avi Mograbi, ”Once I Entered a Garden”, a great film by the most important Israeli documentarian, probably too controversial for a Jewish Film Festival. Here is the precise description the film had when showed at the Edinburgh International Film Festival this year: A wry, playful reflection on the emotional consequences of a political situation, centred around a revealing series of intimate conversations between the Israeli filmmaker and his Palestinian ex-Arabic teacher and longtime friend. An exchange of shared and separate histories, perfectly underscored by and intercut with achingly beautiful letters to a love lost across the divide, read by a woman over evocative super 8 footage of modern-day Beirut.