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December 20, 2013

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PAGE 14A By Ruthie Blum Renen Schorr explains how Jerusalem's Sam Spiegel Film and Television School saved Israel's film industry and propelled it to international acclaim. On December 12, au- diences across the world will mark the 10th anniversary of the passing of David Perlov, an Israeli filmmaker most of them haven't even heard of. In 39 different countries at 50 arty venues, 5,000 people will watch a movie inspired by one of Perlov's masterpieces and produced by graduates of and students at the Sam Spiegel Film & TV School in Jerusalem. This simultaneous screen- ing in Israel and abroad of a 90-minute movie about Jeru- salem, which is in the process of being translated into eight languages, including Chinese and Portuguese--is as much a tribute to the school and its founding father, Renen Schorr, as it is to Perlov. This is because Schorr-- the writer/director/producer at the helm of what Israelis refer to.familiarly as "Sam Spiegel" since its establish- ment in 1989--is responsible for a sea change in the Israeli film industry. (The original name, the Jerusalem Film School, was changed to "Sam Spiegel" in 1996, when the American-Jewish producer's fami|y started giving substan- tial annual donations.) "We brought Israel is back to the movies," Schorr, 61, tells ISRAEL21c. Ashamed of their profes- sion Schorr explains that the school, which currently has 170 students, was born in the midst of a crisis. "In the 1970s, Israeli au- diences began to abandon i 'We brought Israelis back to the movies' home-grown cinema. First went the intelligentsia, and then the rest of the population followed suit. By the 1980s, the situation was so bad that only a few thousand people were watching Israeli movies. It was rare for a local film to be successful in Israel; and no Israeli films were shown abroad." People working in the Israeli film industry were ashamed of their profession. At Beit Zvi in Ramat Gan-- one of the two schools in the country that had a film de- partment-students publicly complained that they were be- ing treated like second-class citizens, Schorr recounts. Their protest inspired Yit- zhak Navon, then Minister of Education and Culture, to form a governmental committee to examine the matter. The upshot was the decision to establish a new national, independent film school, partially funded by the government. Navon got matching funds from the Je- rusalem Foundation through Jerusalem's legendary Mayor Teddy Kollek. That was in the summer of 1989. By October, the school was ready to open its doors. "All this took place in the midst of an intifada, followed by the Jewish holidays," Schorr recalls. "And everyone, everyone--in the media, the film industry and academia-- said it had no chance of succeeding." On top of their other doubts, they scoffed at the idea of locating such an institution in Jerusalem rather than Tel Aviv. Making Israeli film sexy "It really annoyed me that everyone was putting down Je- rusalem as being 'beyond the hills of darkness.' My political views have been left-wing ever since I was a young man, and I live in Tel Aviv," Schorr says. "But I cannot stand the stereotypes spewed by TelAviv leftists. Jerusalem is 'beyond the hills of darkness'? Come on. It's an hour away from Tel Aviv, even closer than Haifa; and they wouldn't say that about Haifa." Ironically, the media at- tention and public debate surrounding the issue "gener- ated the largest registration for film studies in the history of the country," he recalls. "We became swamped with applicants. It was insane. But it illustrated the public's understanding that there was a need for something new--an alternative." This "alternative" was a shift in the way that filmmak- ing was taught. "Up until that point, film in Israel was either on a low, pop-culture level--or politi- cal in an esoteric way--geared at the Tel Aviv caf crowd. We understood that our role would be to create a dialogue between the films produced at the school and the audi- ence-which Israeli cinema had lost." Using Alfred Hitchcock as a model, Schorr put an empha- sis on the viewer. "At our school, we weren't going to ask how to make a good movie, but rather how to reach the viewer--how to fill the air with electricity; how to make Israeli film sexy; and how to move the viewer to tears, laughter, excitement, tension." Israeli film had never been taught this way before, says Schorr. There had been a condescending attitude to- ward the people who actually buy tickets at the box office. "We decided that the way to tackle this was to have our students make many short movies, so that they could practice the very thing that Hitchcock talked about," Schorr says. "And we would look at each film and ask the student who made it: 'Does this work emotionally?'" Gradually, Schorr says, "We created a new language." Got the whole world talking "When we came out with movies made by the first batch of students, we surprised ev- erybody, including ourselves," he continues. "What we had done during the incubation period of the school was to produce movies that looked and felt different. They had stories and protagonists we hadn't seen before, grappling with dilemmas. They showed new landscapes and light- ing. They had a new kind of energy. And that reached the audience--not only in Israel. Within three years, the whole world was talking about us." It still is, given the number of international awards Israeli films have won or been nomi- nated for since then. As in the case of successful Israeli startups, is there something special about young Israeli filmmakers? "They begin their studies at an older age than students elsewhere in the world, be- cause of serving in the army and then taking their 'com- pulsory' treks to the Far East. They are thus more mature, and have interesting stories to tell," Schorr says. "In addition, they are re- sourceful and have a sense of humor. So, while short Israeli films are not techni- cally as good as those from many schools abroad, they are complex and original, which makes them stand out. When we compete in international festivals against films made on far higher budgets, we HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 20, 2013 Vardi Kahane Schorr set out to create new standards for Israeli film. beat them in alhaost every competition." The startup comparison doesn't end there. At the end of 2011, the Sam Spiegel School inaugurated an incubator-- only the third of its kind in the world--where Israeli and foreign scriptwriters are men- tored by well-known Israeli fiimmakers for the purpose of producing full-length films. The writers, whose average age is 35, hail from the Ivory Coast, Sri Lanka, Zambia, have been already been filmed. The final scripts will compete for an $80,000 prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival. Now, Schorr is developing a joint academic program with the Hebrew University for overseas students, predomi- nantly from the Uriited States, to study film in Israel under the cream of the crop of the local industry. The program will be taught in English and is slated to begin in the fall of 2014. Iceland, Guatemala, Mexico, - "Our role is to be more than Peru and elsewhere, aschool," Schorr says. "It is to This fledgling project, be a significant player in the with a donation-driven an- Israeli film industry--and nual budget of $400,000, has Israeli culture as awhole--to produced a dozen films. Of create new standards." those 12, says Schorr, seven Unlikely right-left partnership floated to oppose Bedouin resettlement Uriel Sinai/Getty Images A woman shouting during a protest by Israeli Bedouin against the Israeli government's Prawer Plan, Dec. 5, 2013. By Ben Sales proposal to join with "right- (JTA)--They can't agree on the project's goal. They can't agree on who supports it. They can't even agree on its name. But when  comes to the Israeli government's plan to relocate 30,000 Negev Bedou- in, representatives and allies of the Bedouin community agree with the right wing on one thing: the Prawer plan must be stopped. At a meeting this week, leaders of an alliance between Negev Bedouin and several left-wing groups adopted a wing opponents" of a bill that would relocate tens of thousands of Bedouin from their homes in unrecognized villages in southern Israel. The plan calls for moving the Bedouin into recognized towns nearby with modern services and amenities while providing them with par- tial compensation for their property. "You need to have an ele- mentary school, kindergarten and health care at the center of the modern community," said Doron Almog, director of the Headquarters for Economic and Community Development of the Negev Bedouin in the Prime Minister's Office. "We'd like to replace poverty with modernity." The plan is alternatively referred to as Begin-Prawer or Prawer after its two authors-- former Knesset member Ben- ny Begin and Ehud Prawer, the director of planning in the Prime Minister's Office. It would recognize some of the unrecognized villages while moving the inhabitants of others. The government says the plan is a comprehensive land reform measure aimed at providing infrastructure, education and employment opportunities to the his- torically underserved Bedouin population in the South. But critics of the proposal point to the 30,000-40,000 Bedouin that would be uprooted in what they claim is just the latest move by the govern- ment to strip them of their land to create space for Jewish settlement. "We want rights like every- one else," said Attia Alasam, the head of the Regional Council of Unrecognized Vil- lages. "The state doesn't see that the Bedouin have prob- lems. They see the Bedouin as the problem. The state can't put people on trucks and spill them into towns." The fight over the plan has been contentious. Protests across Israel have left several Israeli police officers injured and led to dozens of arrests. Several human rights groups have blasted the plan. Last week, Arab lawmakers ap- pealed to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, asking him to block what they allege amounts to "ethnic cleansing" of the Bedouin. It's far from certain that the partnership proposal will come to fruition, but the ef- fort represent s a rare attempt at pragmatic compromise in a debate that has been domi- nated by dueling perceptions of reality. At the meeting--repre- sentatives of the Arab-Jewish political party Hadash, the Regional Council of Unrecog- nized Villages and the Negev Coexistence Forum for Civic Equality attended--Alasam and others sounded optimistic that they could find com- mon ground with right-wing activists even though their ultimate objectives are almost certainly incompatible. Alasam wants the govern- ment to allow the Bedouin to stay in the unrecognized villages. Right-wing activists believe the Bedouin have no right to stay where they are. Moshe Feiglin, the head of the Jewish Leadership faction of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party, Voted against the plan because it"hands the Negev over to the Arabs." Zvulun Kalfa of the Jewish Home party opposes the bill because it's too vague. That's also the objection of Ari Briggs, the director of international relation for Regavim, a right-wing orga- nization that wants to protect Israel's lands from "foreign elements" and compel state bodies "to act based on the fundamental principles of Zionism." Briggs says the plan is not specific enough about the final boundaries of recognized villages. "The only reason we need to solve those land claims is so the Bedouin can move into those cities," Briggs said. If 39257 46892 751.i63 81649 92415 57386 18974 24538 63721 the law doesn't address the unrecognized villages, he added, "We haven't solved anything." Knesset member Miri Re- gev, who heads the committee debating the bill, echoed that criticism last week when she criticized Almog for not pre- senting her committee with a proposed map of Negev towns. "I think the time has come to organize Bedouin settle- ment," Regev wrote on Face- book last week. "It's unlikely that the Bedouin are taking over the Negev's lands, and given that, the solution needs to be formulated deliberatively and in away that's transparent to all sides." 4168 1573 8492 7235 3687 2941 5326 6719 9854