Filmmakers outraged over massive budget cuts

Knesset decision to reduce budget to NIS 25m will "set the industry back 20 years," Katriel Schory says.

Waltz with Bashir good 88 248 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Waltz with Bashir good 88 248
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tuesday's Knesset decision to reject the film industry's budget proposal of NIS 67 million per year and instead reduce it to NIS 25m. will cripple the local film community, industry members claimed Wednesday. "This will set the industry back 20 years," said Israeli Film Fund executive director Katriel Schory. "Now, instead of concentrating our efforts on doing what we know best and creating movies, we have to fight the Knesset's decision." The film industry depends on government funding for the majority of its budget. Each year, 14 to 18 full-length feature films and an average of 120 hours of documentaries are produced, with the costs ranging between $500,000 and $1,000,000 per film and approximately $150,000 per hour of documentary. "Because we are going to get only NIS 25 million, we are only going to be able to produce a third of the movies," said film producer Chaim Sharir. "It's a total disaster." The budget proposal was rejected due to low attendance of coalition members during the vote. Kadima MK Yoel Hasson claimed his party rejected the bill to show its support for the film industry, saying: "We voted against the bill because we claim that the film industry deserves NIS 100m. and not NIS 67m.," their decision to reject the bill is considered a purely political move that ignores the film industry altogether. "This is stupidity, because they said they did this because they wanted us to get more money, but we agreed on the NIS 67m. arrangement," Sharir said. "There was a five-year arrangement for a NIS 67m. per year budget that gave the Israeli film industry a vision and a peace of mind so that we can continue to be a success." Schory also cited petty government squabbles as the root of the problem. "To take art, culture, and in our case, the Israeli film industry hostage to all kinds of political maneuvers within the Knesset between the coalition and the opposition is really a shame. Within an extremely short time, the Israeli film industry became such a success. Now to turn around and punish us only because of this power struggle, it's terrible," said Schory. Over the last few years, Israeli films have achieved international critical acclaim. Walk on Water (2004), The Band's Visit (2007), Beaufort (2007), and Waltz with Bashir (2008) have all been well-received at international film festivals, and Beaufort and Waltz with Bashir were both nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film. By limiting the film industry to a third of its current production level, the Knesset would leave Israel's film industry in ruins. Without the money needed to satisfy the film industry's requirements, all movies which are currently in preproduction, production, and postproduction will grind a standstill, according to Schory. "To turn around and punish the Israeli film industry only because of this power struggle, it's terrible," Schory said. "No films will be shot; this will be a terrible tragedy for all of us." The film industry is not giving up. "We are going to stop working on films and start fighting," said Sharir. Starting Thursday, demonstrations will be held at the Jerusalem Film Festival to raise awareness within the community, in hopes that the decision will be quickly overturned. To achieve this goal, the Israeli Film Fund held an emergency meeting Wednesday to address its newfound budget crisis. "We immediately notified the minister of culture Limor Livnat that we are totally behind her," explained Schory, "and that we will have to work very hard and fast to create a majority of Knesset members to unite behind the law when it comes up for vote again. We will do our best to restore the law before the Knesset leaves for holiday."