Israeli cinema is flourishing. Israel now has about 20 film schools, a remarkable number for a population of 6 million people. The reason for this is that twelve years ago a new law in Israel, the Cinema Law, put $15-20 million into filmmaking. DOX met Israeli documentary director Ido Haar during his master class on Israeli social and political documentaries.
– It doesn’t sound like a lot of money but in Israel it only costs half a million or $1 million to make a fiction film, $100,000 for a documentary. So suddenly many films are being done on very different subjects.
Last year the filmmaker was an artist-in-residence at the San Francisco Film Society, where he spoke to several high school and college classes and attended a public screening of his film Nine Star Hotel, about Palestinian men working illegally in Israel. In the masterclass he also showed clips from recent Israeli documentaries, such as Pizza in Auschwitz by Moshe Zimerman and Loving Sophia by Ohad Itach.
CHULEENAN SVETVILAS: What kind of trends do you see in Israeli documentaries?
IDO HARR: Over the years, the main themes in Israeli documentaries are dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and with the Holocaust and religion. There were great films that had been done about those subjects but I felt that there was a little fatigue from those kinds of issues around the world and also in Israel. The films that had been done in the last five years give a different angle.
– I did my film Nine Star Hotel almost five years ago. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict was still all over the News. I really was struggling and trying to find out what to say about this conflict that has not already been said. I grew up in that area of Nine Star Hotel and one of the first things I saw was those men running across the highway and disappearing into the forest and the hills. I find myself walking around this forest, and discovering this huge terminal where thousands of Palestinians are trying to sneak into Israel and find work.
– Usually we were exposed to things very much connected to suicide bombings or violent encounters between soldiers and Palestinians. I would rather tell the stories of thousands of young Palestinian workers. Very small stories, not the big dramas, but something more deep, or behind the drama.
– When it comes to portraying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it seems that some of the sharpest criticism is coming from Israeli filmmakers. Are Israeli filmmakers more critical now than in the past?
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