Jerusalem Film Workshop views life through new lens

The Jerusalem Film Workshop’s documentaries will premiere on August 1 at the 35th annual Jerusalem Film Festival.

July 30, 2018 09:18
2 minute read.
The participants of the 2018 Jerusalem Film Workshop, with the Dome of the Rock in the background

The participants of the 2018 Jerusalem Film Workshop, with the Dome of the Rock in the background. (photo credit: Courtesy)


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The thought of coming to Israel had never crossed Zakaria Siraj’s mind. That was until the 23-year-old Moroccan-born Muslim discovered the Jerusalem Film Workshop, a summer program in which international students of all religions and cultures are brought to Jerusalem to learn, practice and develop their skills as filmmakers.

The Jerusalem Film Workshop was founded five years ago by Gal Greenspan and Roi Kurland, the founders and CEOs of Green Productions. The unique program creates an atmosphere of passion, culture and unity, as it brings together 20 young filmmakers from around the world to practice their craft in the holy city.

Growing up in Casablanca, Siraj developed his passion for cinema. He began to work as a filmmaker in Morocco before moving to New York, where he has been working as a freelance filmmaker for the past two years. When the American Sephardi Federation made him aware of the Jerusalem Film Workshop, Siraj jumped at the opportunity to attend.

The 20 participants arrived in Israel in June to begin the six-week program. They were divided into five groups of four, each group made up of a director, producer, cinematographer, and editor/sound designer. Each team produces a short documentary film over the six intense weeks. At the end of the program the films are screened at a private premiere as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival, and then at the Jewish film festivals in the participants’ respective cities.

Upon their arrival, the participants, from nine countries, were taken to the capital’s Old City. For Siraj, the cinematographer of his group, this was his first true experience of Jerusalem, about which he had only heard stories through media. He was pleasantly surprised. “When I came here, on the first day I went to the Old City, and I saw that it was safer than the US.”

Last year, the Jerusalem Film Workshop changed its program to allow the participants to create documentaries rather than narrative shorts. Documentaries tell stories unique to the location and, thus, presented the opportunity to portray true stories in and about Jerusalem. This year, the five documentaries each focus on a different area of Hanevi’im Street. Upon their completion, the films will be combined, and additional footage added, to create a feature documentary titled The Prophets (Hanevi’im) The result, being screened this week, is a cinematic look at the rich cultures of the area.

The JFW is made possible thanks to the generous support of Onward Israel, the New Fund for Cinema and Television, The Jerusalem Film and TV fund, The Morris & Rosalind Goodman Family Foundation, Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, Everline Group, Manny Margules and United King Films.

The Jerusalem Film Workshop’s documentaries will premiere on August 1 at the 35th annual Jerusalem Film Festival.

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