Celebrating Sam Spiegel Film Lab

The awards will go to projects developed by lab participants and for the first time, to other filmmakers whose projects are in various stages of development.

July 5, 2018 08:55
4 minute read.
DIETER KOSSLICK, the director of the Berlin International Film Festival

DIETER KOSSLICK, the director of the Berlin International Film Festival, will receive a new award, the Force-of-Nature in Filmmaking Award, from the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab. (photo credit: ULRICH WEICHERT)


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The awards and annual celebration for the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab, an initiative of the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School, will be held from July 5-8 at Mishkenot Sha’ananim and at the school.

The awards will go to projects developed by lab participants and for the first time, to other filmmakers whose projects are in various stages of development.

Each year, the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab brings a dozen young director-writers who are at the advanced stages of writing their first or second full-length feature film to Jerusalem. About half are Israeli and half are from abroad. All participants write for a seven-month period, and are invited for two periods of writing and discussion in Jerusalem under the mentorship of three of the world’s top script editors, who are filmmakers themselves. The 2018 script editors were Clare Downs, Jacques Akchoti and Avi Nesher.

This year, the 11 lab participants will compete for a $70,000 prize from the Beracha Foundation. These participants come from Japan, Turkey, Spain, Croatia, Greece, Denmark, Panama and Bulgaria as well as Israel. A participant will also win the Slow Food Dinner Award, the prize for which is the opportunity to be mentored by Jean-Claude Carriere, a screenwriter who has written 145 films, including collaborations with Godard and Bunuel.

The lab, which was launched in 2011, has been an extraordinary success, with over 70% of its projects produced worldwide and 11 films to be released over the course of the next year. Son of Saul, directed by Laszlo Nemes, which was created at the lab, won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film and the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes. Other films developed at the lab have won dozens of awards around the world and in Israel.

Renen Schorr, the founding director of the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School and the lab, and Lior Sasson, the associate director of the lab, are releasing a manifesto at the event about the lab’s philosophy of transforming filmmaking into something more intense and personal. This manifesto reads, in part: “The Lab was born out of the storytelling energies of the School... We are leaping towards a broadening of our values and conflictual storytelling, setting our insights on international feature-length films.We are believers. We believe in a cinema that breaks stereotypes. We are a hard-working school, a hard-working lab. We are believers in deadlines. We go up against our own stereotype, shattering it.”

This year, the lab is giving a new award, the Force-of-Nature in Filmmaking Award, which will be presented to Dieter Kosslick, who embodies the values extolled in the manifesto. Kosslick is the director of the Berlinale, the Berlin International Film Festival, one of the largest and most influential film festivals in the world.

The very charming and witty Kosslick will be in Jerusalem to accept his award, which will also recognize his work setting up film funds in Europe (including the first pan-European film fund) and founding the Berlinale Talents, an annual summit and networking platform for 250 creators in the world of film, which has welcomed many young filmmakers, actors and other professionals. This award recognizes Kosslick’s genius for bringing together, encouraging and developing talented filmmakers.
The event’s program lauds him as a “cultural master-builder who changed the infrastructure of world cinema.” Israeli films have long been front and center at the Berlinale and countless Israeli filmmakers have taken part in the Berlinale Talents. Kosslick is also a world expert on bagels and has even written a book on the subject.

Several works in progress will compete for two $25,000 prizes, the Lab WiP Award and the ARP Selection prize, for distribution rights in France.

The Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film School was founded in 1989. The Sam Spiegel Foundation, run by the family of Oscar-winning Hollywood producer Sam Spiegel, was instrumental in creating the school, which has played a key role in turning Israel from a cinematic backwater in the ‘80s and ‘90s to the world leader in the movie industry it is today. Films from the school’s students have won hundreds of awards at international festivals and it has been honored with over 180 retrospectives at film festivals, as well as the Museum of Modern Art in New York’s first tribute to a film school.

Its graduates include Talya Lavie, whose first feature, Zero Motivation, won the Best Narrative Feature Prize at the Tribeca Film Festival; Mihal Breizis and Oded Binnun, whose short film, Aya, was nominated for an Oscar; Rama Burshtein, the ultra-Orthodox director of Fill the Void and The Wedding Plan; Nir Bergman, whose films, Broken Wings and Intimate Grammar, both won the Grand Prix at the Tokyo International Film Festival; Nadav Lapid, the director of The Kindergarten Teacher and Policeman, which was shown at the New York Film Festival; and many, many others.

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