Grapevine: Shagrir’s career

Shagrir, in a career that spanned just over a half a century, was one of the central figures of Israel’s film and television industries.

Micha Shagrir (photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)
Micha Shagrir
(photo credit: YOSSI ZWECKER)
JUST AS Lia van Leer’s name remains integral to the Jerusalem Cinematheque even after her death, so does that of Micha Shagrir, who died a year ago. His memory will be honored at the Cinematheque by the Israeli Film and Directors Guild on February 25.
Shagrir, in a career that spanned just over a half a century, was one of the central figures of Israel’s film and television industries. He was one of the founders of Israel Television, now known as Channel 1, and worked for the most part as an independent producer and director of documentary films, most of which were commissioned but some of which he made because he recognized their significance to future historians. He was a teacher and mentor for young filmmakers, encouraging their creativity, and was a link between Israel and international production teams, many of which he headed.
He documented the emerging development of the country through the eyes of individuals from various immigrant groups, as well as the Jewish experience, putting Ethiopian Jews and those from the former Soviet Union into particular focus.
He also documented the drama of the nation’s high and low points, presenting as broad a picture as possible.
The esteem in which he was held by his colleagues was reflected in positions that he held as head of the Foundation for the Encouragement of Quality Films, which evolved into the Israel Film Fund, and founding director of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School. He also perpetuated the memory of his wife, Aliza Shagrir, a television personality who was killed in a terrorist attack in France on Simhat Torah in 1980, by establishing the Aliza Shagrir Foundation for the encouragement of young documentary filmmakers. In addition, he conceived the Cinema Jerusalem Project, which documents the many complexities of the City of Peace (which does not exactly live up to its name).
In 2014, he was given a Life Achievement award by the Sam Spiegel Film School at the Jerusalem Film Festival, which took place at the Cinematheque. It was co-sponsored by The Israel Film Fund, The Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, the Israeli Producers Guild, the New Fund for Cinema and TV, the Israeli Film Academy and the Jerusalem Foundation. Shagrir also received a Life Achievement Award from the Israeli Film Academy.
Clips from several of his films will be shown at the memorial tribute, which will be attended by Austrian Ambassador Martin Weiss.
Shagrir was born in Austria in the city of Linz, where his grandfather had settled towards the end of the 1800s. The family lived on Bischofstrasse, and their neighbors were the family of Adolf Eichmann, who was prosecuted and executed in Israel as a Nazi war criminal. Shagrir, who was brought to pre-state Israel as an infant, returned to Linz a decade ago to explore his roots and to make the film Bischofstrasse 7. He discovered that not only were the two families who lived four doors from each other quite friendly, but that his brother’s bar-mitzva suit had been purchased from the Eichmanns’ clothing store. Shagrir was also given a prestigious award by the city of his birth.
In Hebrew, shagrir means “ambassador,” and Micha Shagrir was undoubtedly one of the best envoys of Israel’s film and television industries.
EVERYONE LOVES a good murder mystery, and one that has been on the books since the year of the establishment of the state is that of the assassination of United Nations peace mediator Count Folke Bernadotte and his chief UN observer colonel Andre Serot.
The Stern Group, one of the most militant of the Jewish underground movements, eventually took responsibility for the assassination, and it was generally believed that Yitzhak Shamir, who later became Israel’s eighth prime minister, was one of the four people involved in the killing. He was never brought to trial. His accomplices were said to be Israel Eldad, Natan Yellin-Mor and Emanuel Hanegbi, the father of MK Tzachi Hanegbi.
Another version of the story names the assassins as Yehoshua Cohen, Shmuel Rosenblum, David Ephrati, Yitzhak Markovitz, Yehoshua Zettler and Meshulam Makover. No one was ever brought to trial, and the true identities of the killers remain a mystery.
An attempt to solve this mystery is part of a program devised by the powers-thatbe at the Tower of David Museum of the History of Jerusalem, adjacent to the Kishle Police Station, which is steeped in centuries of history.
With spring and daylight saving time approaching, the Tower of David Museum, whose full title includes the History of Jerusalem, will introduce a series of Friday morning lectures and walking tours of three hours’ duration each. The idea is to introduce participants to historical events and the people who dominated those events.
The mystery of who actually killed Bernadotte remains unsolved, but the story itself is fascinating. This episode in the history of Jerusalem is the first in the series and will be led by Police Commander Shlomi Shitrit, chief historian of the Israeli Police Force. It takes place at 9:30 a.m. The lecture is in Hebrew. Advance registration is required at *2884. The cost is NIS 80 per person or NIS 280 for the whole series.