Israel Film Fund director Schory celebrated at Berlin film festival

When Schory took over management of the Israel Film Fund in the late 1990s, the Israeli film industry was at a low point.

February 24, 2018 20:40
2 minute read.
Film camera (illustrative)

Film camera (illustrative). (photo credit: ING IMAGE/ASAP)

Katriel Schory, the producer and executive director of the Israel Film Fund, was honored on Tuesday at the 68th Berlinale with the Berlinale Camera Award for his contribution to the renaissance in Israeli film.

The award was presented in an emotional ceremony at Berlin’s HAU2 theater by festival director Dieter Kosslick, who has long welcomed Israeli films and filmmakers to the Berlinale.

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The presentation of the award was followed by a conversation between Schory and director Samuel Maoz, whose film Foxtrot, which received the backing of the Israel Film Fund, was shortlisted for the Oscar this year and was the focus of controversy when Culture Minister Miri Regev said it defamed the Israel Defense Forces, although she admitted she had not seen it.

When Schory took over management of the Israel Film Fund in the late 1990s, the Israeli film industry was at a low point. Israeli filmmakers made three or four films a year – movies which were hardly seen inside or outside Israel.

Since Schory took over the fund, more than 250 feature-length films have been made, which have garnered hundreds of awards at film festivals around the world, including the Berlinale, Cannes, Venice, Toronto, Tribeca, Tokyo and dozens of others. When I started writing for The Jerusalem Post in 2000, just after Schory took up his post, it was so rare for an Israeli film to be accepted into a top film festival that every time this happened, I wrote an article about it. Now, so many Israeli films win major awards – such as the Silver Bear for Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort in the 2007 Berlinale – that it is hard to keep up with all of them.

But Schory’s success as director of the Israel Film Fund should not be measured only in awards. The Israeli film industry has widened and become more diverse, giving a voice to Israelis from every sector of society, including religious Israelis, recent immigrants from all over the world, Israeli Arabs and Mizrahi Jews. It has also brought Israelis into theaters to see domestic films, with millions of tickets sold per year for Israeli-made films.

Schory spoke passionately about the Israeli film industry and its place in a democratic society, saying, “We say what we say in complete freedom... the creative freedom of the artist is number one.” In spite of Regev’s threats to cut funding to the film industry, “This has not changed,” he said.

“Always remember that politicians come and go, but films, if they are good, stay forever.”

Renen Schorr, the founding director of the Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television, which runs the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab, attended the ceremony and this week, the lab announced a new award.

This is an annual award for a “cultural master-builder who changed the infrastructure of world cinema.” The first honoree will be Kosslick, who will be recognized for changing the infrastructure of German cinema in many ways, including his creation of the first pan-European distribution fund and the Berlinale Talents, a campus for developing new filmmakers. Kosslick also inspired the establishment of the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund in 2008.

The award will be presented in early July in Jerusalem.

The late Israeli director/writer/actor Assi Dayan was also honored at the Berlinale, when the digitally restored version of his 1992 film, Life According to Agfa, premiered. The restoration was undertaken by the Israel Film Archive’s Meir Russo and the Jerusalem Cinematheque CEO, Dr. Noa Regev.

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