Claudia Droste-Deselaers 311.
(photo credit: Nir Shaanani)
If you live in Israel and watch the news, it’s easy to get the feeling that whole world is against this country, as performers and artists from around the world join the movement to boycott Israel, while others discreetly keep their distance.
But anyone who has been enjoying the renaissance in Israeli films during the last decade and who bothers to read the credits will notice a quiet revolution has been taking place in the way these films are made. Increasingly, they are co-produced by European film funds, particularly those in Germany and France.
This week, at the Jerusalem Film Festival, which runs through July 17 at
the Jerusalem Cinematheque, two European film funds/broadcasters are
paying tribute to Katriel Schory, the executive director of the Israel
Film Fund, at a reception at JVP Media Quarter on July 12.
Claudia Droste-Deselaers, the CEO of Filmstiftung Nordrhein-Westfalen
(Film Foundation North Rhine Westphalia), the largest state film fund in
Europe, and representatives from the German-French broadcaster, ARTE,
will honor Schory’s work in making co-production a reality. Over the
past decade, more than 60 Israeli films have been made with significant
financing from abroad, and Droste- Deselaers attributes much of this
successful collaboration to Schory’s efforts.
“The most important thing he’s done is start to connect our cultures,”
says Droste-Deselaers. “He’s opened Europe up to Israeli films, and
Israel to European films.”
Droste-Deselaers’ foundation has financed and helped develop some of the
most important Israeli films of the past 10 years, including Eran
Ricklis’ The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree, Dror Shaul’s Sweet Mud (which
took the top award at the Sundance Film Festival), and Samuel Maoz’s
Lebanon (the winner of the Golden Lion Award at the last Venice
International Film Festival).
“More than a third of the financing for Israeli films over the last 10
years has come from co-production money,” explains Schory. And of that
sum, half is from Germany and France. “That’s more than we get from all
the Israeli broadcasting companies combined.”
Droste-Deselaers’ foundation and other organizations help Israeli
filmmakers at all stages of production, even developing screenplays.
At an event on Sunday morning, aspiring Israeli filmmakers pitched
projects to a panel of film-fund executives, distributors and producers
from Europe. Once co-production money is secured, a European executive
will sometimes come on board as producer.
WHILE THE success of Israeli films has been a cause for celebration,
Schory and the government-affiliated Israel Film Fund have come in for
criticism from those who warn that accepting foreign money will cause
Israeli filmmakers to make movies geared for audiences abroad.
Schory insists that this is not a problem: “In all the years I’ve been
doing this, in all the times I’ve been in the cutting room with
filmmakers, I’ve never seen a director say, ‘Let’s take that out, it
won’t go over in Europe.’” Droste-Deselaers agrees, saying, “If a film
from Israel doesn’t touch the hearts of its home audience, it won’t work
Surprisingly, Droste-Deselaers says she faces no pressure at home to
stop working with Israeli filmmakers due to the political situation.
“Political and cultural institutions are completely separate in
Germany,” she says. “This comes from the Second World War, when the
government used the media, especially the radio, for propaganda. So now
there is an understanding that culture should never come under the
influence of politics.”
Both Schory and Droste-Deselaers stress that this partnership is truly a
collaboration. “The Israel Film Fund doesn’t only receive money from
Europe. It also supports and invests in the release of European films in
Israel.’ Schory feels that Droste-Deselaers and her European colleagues
have made a crucial contribution to the development of Israeli film.
“When we started working together,” he recalls, “Israeli cinema is not
what it is now. I didn’t come to them with a very successful cinema
industry behind me. We were coming out of the dark years of the late
Nineties. And they came with me. They trusted me and they trusted the
talent of Israel.”