A Glimpse Into Israel’s Booming Film Industry

Consider this TCJewfolk’s first official Oscar prediction: the Israeli film Bethlehem will be in the running for Best Foreign Language Film at this year’s Academy Awards.
This prediction comes courtesy of renowned Israeli director, producer and film insider Noemi Schory, who is currently the artist-in-residence at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Jewish Studies. Schory, the head of Israel’s Beit Berl Film School, has produced and directed more than 50 documentaries and television programs for the Israeli and international markets, and this Sunday, she will be sharing her expertise with the community noemiat A Lens on History: An Afternoon with Documentary Filmmaker Noemi Schory, as part of a collaboration between the Israeli Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s Culture BLVD III and the Rimon Artist Salon Series.
Schory will join Emily Goldberg, an Emmy Award-winning filmmaker whose career began in the Twin Cities, at 3 pm at the Sabes JCC for a discussion on documentary film, including the challenges of using archival footage to give an accurate picture of day to day life.
“This is a unique opportunity for the community to be exposed to two award winning filmmakers,” said Eilat Harel, Israel Center director. “And Noemi Schory has a wealth of knowledge about the booming Israeli film industry. This is a great chance to learn, from the inside, about an up and coming film industry that’s achieving amazing things.”
Indeed, the Israeli film industry has gained remarkable traction in recent years, thanks in part to over $10 million in public funding and international investments the industry has received yearly since 2000. This has led to more opportunities for filmmakers and thus, better films. In 1995, .3% of Israeli moviegoers bought tickets to Hebrew-language cinema. Today, 10% of Israel’s box office sales are for Israeli films.
“We had, in 5 years, 4 Academy Award finalists. Do you know what an achievement that is for a tiny country like ours? The Dutch, the Danish, they are looking at us in envy,” said Schory.
Schory also cites the rise in quality cinema education for the increase in quality films. “Israel has 12 film schools, and there are 240 high school programs where one of your graduation subjects can be film. So there is a pyramid building up to ensure success in those who make films.”
The influx of filmmakers – also helped by the decreasing costs of film technology – are producing films with a wide range of themes. “The impression is that everything is about conflict and war, but no. It’s true that foreigners tend to support more films that have to do some way or another with politics, but I find my students are running away from topical issues. Their films deal with their personal identity,” said Schory.
This rise in successful Israeli films is leading to a larger number of these movies receiving international attention and distribution rights. “This year we had films in Tribeca, Sundance, and Cannes, to name a few,” said Schory, “And the Telluride Film Festival, which is different in that we don’t submit films, they request to screen our films, which is a great honor.”
Documentary films, Schory’s bread and butter, were successful abroad before the recent wave of fiction films, and that fascinating industry is what she will focus on in her talk on Sunday.
“The Artists Salons are a great place to hear artists talk about why they do what they do and the challenges they encounter,” said David Harris, Rimon director. “Emily and Noemi are both really accomplished filmmakers, so this is a special chance for an audience to meet them in an intimate setting. My favorite part of the Salons is the stream of questions from the audience.”
But, if you’re looking for more advance information for your Oscar pool, we’re sure Schory will be happy to guide you.
For more information on A Lens on History and to purchase tickets, visit jewishminneapolis.org/cultureblvd.aspx.
Want to dive into the world of Israeli cinema? Schory suggests:
Avanti Popolo: “This is an incredible, metaphoric film,” says Schory, “and it was actually the director’s graduation film, turned into a full length feature.”
Life According to Agfa: “This film is by Asi Dayan, son of legendary defense minister Moshe Dayan. It’s very dark and metaphorical.”
Late Marriage: “I love this film. It’s a great film and really paved the way for Israeli cinema.” Available on Netflix.
Sweet Mud: “I identify a lot with and love this movie.” Available in the Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation’s library.
Footnote: “This film is a great achievement. The director managed to turn a film, about a seemingly impossible subject – academia –into a very powerful father and son story.”
Ajami: “This movie touched me deeply, especially when I talk to Israeli Arabs and understood how much they could relate to it.”
Take Wife: “This film was bashed when it came out in Israel, for all the wrong reasons. It’s about Sephardi women and was bashed by the mostly male and Ashkenazi critics, who said it was too intense. “
The Israel Center of the Minneapolis Jewish Federation has an extensive library of Israeli films, new and old, which can be found here. (http://jewishminneapolis.org/page.aspx?id=247743)
A Lens on History: An Afternoon with Documentary Filmmaker Noemi Schory is co-sponsored by the Sabes JCC, the Jewish Community Relations Council, Schusterman Family Foundation, the Department of Jewish Studies at the University of Minnesota, and the Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest. Media sponsors are the American Jewish World and TC Jewfolk.