On the Hill

The picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem at the focus of fresh documentary films.

August 20, 2019 20:29
3 minute read.
On the Hill

Reine Kleidman. (photo credit: Courtesy)

The picturesque Jerusalem neighborhood of Ein Kerem, according to Christian tradition, is where Mary visited Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, when she was pregnant with Jesus. Just as Mary’s Spring attracts pilgrims to drink from its water, Ein Kerem was chosen by the Jerusalem Film Workshop as the setting to inspire its latest crop of international filmmakers.

On July 31, I sat in an auditorium in the Jerusalem Cinémathèque to watch the fruit of their labor: the premiere of On the Hill, a compilation of six short documentaries made by 24 young people from 11 countries – Israel, the US, China, Australia, Brazil, France, Mexico, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Poland and South Africa.

I had been invited by Yoni Collins, a Canadian assisting staff member in the five-week program, and Obett Motaung, a filmmaker from Johannesburg. Participants had been divided into six teams, each comprising a director, producer, cinematographer and editor.

They were given the assignment of “making deeply human, meaningful films” on colorful characters in Ein Kerem. All the characters were invited to the premiere, shown as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival, which made it that much more exciting.

They included a longtime activist considered the queen of Ein Kerem, a pediatric doctor at Hadassah, an old-timer at the local music center and his Arab assistant, a chocolate and ice-cream shop owner, a woman who operates a secular yeshiva with her husband, and an observant Jewess who runs a women’s weaving workshop.

Each story is cleverly woven together, taking the viewer on a visual tour through Ein Kerem via the winding roads to the top of the hill.
The Jerusalem Film Workshop, now in its sixth year, was the brainchild of Gal Greenspan and Roi Kurland, founders of Green Productions.

“The Jerusalem Film Workshop offers compelling and inviting opportunities for young people around the world to develop their skills and cinematic voices, and to connect to Israel through the unique lens of film,” says Ilan Wagner, CEO of Onward Israel, one of the program’s sponsors.

“The workshop is an intense and highly enjoyable experience,” says Collins. “The participants explore Jerusalem from a cinematic perspective, travel through Israel on weekly excursions, and create lifelong bonds and friendships, all connected by their deep love and passion for film.”

“My stay with all JFW participants was a total rollercoaster of learning, extending my network and outright fun,” adds Motaung.

“I have had the most amazing experience with all you amazing people over the past five weeks,” filmmaker Alicia Cherem from Mexico City told her colleagues as she addressed the audience in the auditorium. “Most importantly, thank you to the characters for trusting us with your story, and your humanity.”

Cherem’s film, about a wonderful weaver named Hadar Kleidman, took an unexpected twist when Hadar and her husband, Yotam, came on stage after the screening, holding their baby.

“I’d just like to point out what a small world this is,” said Yotam. “Let me introduce my 97-year-old mother sitting in the front. Fifty years ago, she dedicated this auditorium in memory of her mother, as you can see on the plaque over there.”

On the right side of the hall, the plaque read, “To my dear mother, Jane Breteau, who devoted all her life to the seventh art, serving brilliantly until her death as director of the Alhambra Cinema Music Hall in Paris.” It was signed, Reine Kleidman.

At the end of the event I went over to the woman with white hair sitting in her wheelchair. Her assistant told me she spoke only French.
“What do you think?” I asked her.

Reine Kleidman’s eyes lit up.

C’est magnifique!” she declared.

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