Zooming in on ‘The Museum’

Filmmaker Ran Tal focuses on the Israel Museum in his newest documentary.

‘THE MUSEUM’ is Ran Tal’s third film about a location, in the quest to try to better understand Israeli culture through space – rather than one story about one person. (photo credit: DANIEL KEDEM)
‘THE MUSEUM’ is Ran Tal’s third film about a location, in the quest to try to better understand Israeli culture through space – rather than one story about one person.
(photo credit: DANIEL KEDEM)
A museum is a venue to showcase creative culture and artistic expression. It is a meeting place for old and new; where impressionist paintings hang on the same walls as modern art. The Israel Museum in particular, epitomizes this, as it daringly and comprehensively celebrates Israeli culture through its history and art in innumerable forms.
The Israel Museum is now also the subject of a new documentary by Israeli filmmaker Ran Tal, titled The Museum. Tal is the recipient of multiple prizes and honors in the world of cinema, including Best Documentary at the Jerusalem Film Festival. In addition, Tal teaches film at Sapir college and Tel Aviv University. The Museum is currently screening in Lev cinemas all over Israel.
Tal sat down with The Jerusalem Post to discuss studying film by accident, observation behind the lens, and exploring Israeli culture through its most prestigious museum.
Can you talk about your background as a filmmaker?
I grew up in the north of Israel. I studied cinema at Tel Aviv University really by accident.
It was never my dream. I intended to study psychology, but my grades weren’t good enough. I started to study cinema for one year and found that it was really wonderful, so I kept studying it. It really was by accident. My filmmaking career went slowly; one film to the next.
Are you only involved with documentaries?
I did a television short with a friend of mine who is a writer. But since the late 1990s, I’ve been making documentaries.
What is it that draws you to documentaries?
I don’t know. I love people. I love watching them, observing them, and trying to understand different situations, especially in the context of history and politics. It’s fascinating to learn a new subject with every film. It’s an opportunity for me.
Do you think that documentaries have the power to bring about change?
No, I don’t think that art brings change necessarily. I think it’s part of human existence to try to understand the world in which we live. It’s about asking questions, increasing understanding, and reacting to reality. Bringing change is not my motivation.
What would you say is your motivation as a filmmaker?
There are many answers to this question.
Why does someone wake up in the morning and paint? Why does someone create music? We go out and try to ask, listen to, and observe what’s around us.
What was the inspiration for wanting to create ‘The Museum’ in particular?
I made a documentary a few years ago about Sakhne, or Gan HaShlosha [the hot springs in Israel’s north] called Gan Eden. So this is the third film about a location to try to better understand Israeli culture through space, rather than one story about one person.
How does the Israel Museum do that in your opinion?
It’s been open since 1965. It reflects and shapes Israeli culture. By going there, you can watch or observe Israel through the galleries.
The film is about the Israel Museum, but more than that, it is about Israel. It’s interesting because there is a meta process happening here. The documentary explores Israeli culture through the museum that explores and reflects Israeli culture. It’s a double look.
The film took about three years to complete. I worked closely with everyone at the museum, from the workers to the curators. The film is like a big collage.
Was there anything that surprised you while making the film?
I think that we really live in the past. We believe we live in the present, but the past never leaves us. We think we are in the 21st century, but really we are living in the time of Antiochus [221 BC - 193 BC] or Hitler. They create our present in a way. I don’t know if that surprised me, but it was a very pervasive feeling. History repeats itself, but that’s the story we tell ourselves. By telling the stories of history, we actually create the present.
What do you hope that viewers will take away from the documentary?
I hope that they will go to the Israel Museum, to go see it for themselves. There is so much beauty and sadness there. It’s not just a vehicle of disaster, it also showcases the ability of mankind to create amazing objects. I think it’s a place that is really inspiring. I really hope that the film inspires as well, and that it makes people think and ask questions.
What kind of feedback have you gotten so far from audiences?
People are very excited. It touches their hearts, which is quite surprising because the film has no narrative. That’s really nice to see their reactions and how it touched them in many ways. They ask questions about technical stuff and how I get people to talk so freely.
Where are your upcoming screenings for ‘The Museum’?
We have many in Tel Aviv, Herzliya, Jerusalem and Haifa.
For more information on screenings of The Museum and/or on Ran Tal’s other films, visit: www.facebook.com/themuseumfilm, www.lev.co.il/english or www.ran-tal.com.