Finding the ‘Garden of Eden’

Filmmaker Ran Tal’s award-winning documentary about Sachne National Park opens the Cinema Meets Reality series in Tel Aviv this week.

Tal film370 (photo credit: Daniel Kedem)
Tal film370
(photo credit: Daniel Kedem)
‘What is the periphery?” asks Ran Tal, the director whose latest film, the documentary Garden of Eden, has been chosen to open the Cinema Meets Reality series. The series, which is sponsored by Bank Benleumi, is designed to spotlight films made in the periphery of the country. Garden of Eden will be screened free of charge in the bank’s “Culture and Community” auditorium at 42 Rothschild Boulevard in Tel Aviv on February 7 at 8 p.m.
“If a movie that doesn’t happen in the center of Tel Aviv is the periphery, then I guess, in that case, I make movies about the periphery,” he says.
Garden of Eden is about the Sachne National Park (Gan Hashlosha), one of the most beautiful parks in Israel.
Located near Beit She’an, it attracts a cross-section of Israeli society and was a refuge for Tal when he was growing up on a kibbutz just a few kilometers away.
Tal won the Best Documentary Director Award at the 2012 Jerusalem Film Festival (one of the most competitive categories at the festival, which also included the Oscar-nominated The Gatekeepers and 5 Broken Cameras) for Garden of Eden. His previous film, Children of the Sun, about child-rearing on kibbutzim, also won great acclaim.
“We didn’t feel we were peripheral,” says Tal of his days on the kibbutz. “It’s a state of mind. You can live in Tel Aviv and feel you are on the periphery, because you don’t feel close to the cultural life of the city. We didn’t feel victimized or marginalized. I think the media has played up certain dreams and made Tel Aviv into a kind of brand. The physical distance between what’s considered the periphery and what’s considered the center is not so great.”
But places outside mainstream Tel Aviv continue to interest Tal.
“There was something emotional for me there [at Sachne]. I had an attraction to the place. And then I had to figure out how to write it in documentary film language, what this park gives to people.”
It was fun for Tal to return to a place he had always loved and to film there. And naturally, he found it had changed.
“In the Seventies it was very folksy. It was a vacation that anyone could take, you didn’t need money.
Everyone used to go there.”
Now, he found “different populations. You can see the sociological differences. There are more Russian families, Arab families and even the ultra-Orthodox population putting their stamp on it.”
But some things never change: “It’s still a mess in the summer, with families running around, lots of kids and food. It’s a microcosm of Israel. It’s one of the only places where you can see all the branches of our [Israeli] tribe in one hour. You see everyone at the same place....
You can hear every accent.... It’s very Israeli. It’s not part of the tour of Israel. Sahne is not a place tourists see.”
Tal will soon discover exactly how foreigners do respond to his film when he takes it the True/False Fest, an up-and-coming documentary film festival in Columbia, Missouri in late February. Garden of Eden is also set to be shown on the YES documentary channel soon.
Bank Benleumi’s Cinema Meets Reality festival is just part of the bank’s initiative to encourage and highlight the development of culture outside the large, urban areas, and to create a national dialogue by bringing that culture to Tel Aviv. There will be free concerts, theater and art events in the future, also at the Culture and Community Auditorium in Tel Aviv.
On March 14, another excellent documentary will be screened in this series, Meni Elias’ Fat Cows, Lean Cows, about the relationships between three men working on a dairy farm in the Negev: an Israeli oldtimer, a younger Arab and a Thai worker.
The irony that Tal’s film about the periphery is now being celebrated in the heart of Tel Aviv is not lost on the director. Nor is the irony that he is being celebrated as a director who highlights the periphery, although he now lives in Tel Aviv.
“Soon I will have been living here more than half of my life, more years than I was on the kibbutz.” He pauses. “I don’t feel like a Tel Aviv person, though.”
To get more information and to reserve seats for the Garden of Eden screening, call (03) 513-0001. There is also information on the Bank Benleumi website at