Short and sweet

The Mana Rishona production company will screen 15 short films at a gala at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque to get the public used to the genre.

Actor and comedian Moni Moshonov starts in the darkly humorous ‘The End.’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
Actor and comedian Moni Moshonov starts in the darkly humorous ‘The End.’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
They say that no matter what the original subject is, we always end up talking about gastronomic matters. Ophir Goldman, director of the short-film production venture Mana Rishona (First Course), readily admits that food was a factor in choosing the program’s name.
“You know, the first course at weddings is always the tastiest,” she says. “Food is something all of us, – Jews, Arabs, anyone – can relate to, and enjoy.”
Next Monday, Mana Rishona will mark its third anniversary by screening 15 short films at a gala event at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque.
The videos, most of them under 10 minutes, were selected out of 95 entries and cover a wide range of themes, genres and styles.
“Short films have become increasingly popular around the world in recent years,” notes Goldman, “and it is starting to take off in Israel, too.”
The program’s name also derives from the fact that all the items on show have been previously screened, prior to a scheduled full-length feature film. It is a neat throwback for those of us old enough to recall when the price of a cinema ticket included a short, and possibly some cartoons, before the main feature.
Designed to offer creators of video vignettes greater exposure and to promote the short film format, the venture is supported by the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, Mifal Hapayis, and the Green Productions movie and commercial production outfit.
Mana Rishona is the brainchild of Green Productions founders Roi Kurland and Gal Greenspan.
“Gal spends a lot of time abroad, visiting all sorts of film festivals, and he noticed the popularity of short films around the world, while they were less popular here,” explains Goldman. “Gal decided to set up a home base for short film production in Israel, which would offer shorts a suitable stage [as well], and make them accessible to the public at large.”
Goldman is evidently taken with the more concise format herself.
“You can show so much in a very short space of time,” she notes, adding that this places the creator under tough constraints.
“It is very difficult to make a short film, because you don’t have much time in which to convey your story. The filmmaker has to be very precise in his or her work.”
Judging by the works this reporter watched out of the final lineup of 15, the filmmakers appear to have solved that conundrum.
Among the films on Monday’s Tel Aviv Cinematheque roster is a delightfully appealing flash animation effort called Milim (“Words”) by Jen- Sher Gur, which started life as a study assignment when Gur was a student at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design.
The aesthetics of Milim seem inspired by Aztec art, and Gur manages to spin his yarn in around two minutes.
Nyosha, by Israeli-born, Californian- bred Liran Kapel, is a stop-motion animation piece that tells the true story of Holocaust survivor Nomi Kapel, the filmmaker’s grandmother. The younger Kapel addresses the subject matter with deftness and delicacy, and the result is a moving, visually captivating, relatively lengthy short of around 11 minutes.
Another fetching item, which also has a Holocaust connection, is Remember Ata’lle by Maya Sarfaty.
While the general impression of shorts may be that they’re made by novice filmmakers trying to make their first mark on the industry, the fact is that there are plenty of established professionals who intermittently try their hand at the briefer format.
“There are well-known film directors who make shorts in between making full length features,” observes Goldman.
“It’s like keeping your muscles in shape.”
That is clearly the case with Shmulik Maoz, whose 2009 full-length film, Lebanon, won the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice Film Festival.
His contribution to Mana Rishona is a darkly humorous effort called The End, which stars actor and comedian Moni Moshonov.
Goldman says the Mana Rishona adjudicators allow the program entrants artistic freedom.
“The films can be about anything. We take anything and everything,” she says. “They can be documentaries, or basically anything that is a film – with a beginning, middle and end – that has a story, which is out of the ordinary, energetic, challenging or innovative.”
The themes the films address vary, from the delightfully cute to the highly emotive and even challenging to watch. The latter category includes a short called Mechubeset (“Washed”), which features a pretty explicit rape scene.
“We deliberated over that film,” admits Goldman, “but in the end, we decided to include it in the final 15 because it is good. Ultimately it is the quality that we look for.”
Another aspect of presenting short films at the cinematheque is the public’s expectations.
Normally, when we make an effort to go out to the movies, we are looking for at least 80 minutes of material to get into. But Goldman sees no problem with getting the public used to watching a story unfold and end within a matter of minutes.
“Don’t forget, these days, people are used to watching short stuff on Facebook or You- Tube,” she says.
She also asserts that Mana Rishona has provided the short film genre with a timely boost.
“I think the program encourages people to make shorts. As soon as you have a platform, and there is support from bodies like Gesher and Mifal Hapayis, that provide funding – and then there’s us to help on the production side – that encourages people to create more. I think there is a lot of talent out there, and we want to give the filmmakers a chance to expose their work to the general public.”
Films produced through Mana Rishona are shown at cinematheques and cultural centers all over the country.
The program is also helping to get word of Israeli short film efforts out to the rest of the world. In the past couple of years, Mana Rishona alumni have had their work screened at film festivals in San Diego, New York, London, Poland and Denmark. Clearly the Israeli short is getting attention.
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