February 22, 2007
IFF: Personal, not political stories drive lineup
Israeli-Palestinian conflict takes backseat to tales of family strife
(Page 2 - Previous Page)Volman said that trying to put Israeli films into categories is a useless activity: "I keep reading about trends, but I don't think that as a creator I change every 10 years or so. Some of the subjects I deal with in 'Tied Hands' have been dealt with in my early films in the '60s and the '70s."
Some say that political agendas don't sell very well at the box office, and that the crowd prefers a good melodrama over a film that waves social and political flags. But the track record elsewhere tells a different story. European movies frequently deal with contemporary social problems and political issues, as well as national historical dilemmas, with great success.
In England, directors Mike Lee ("Secrets and Lies"), Steven Frears ("The Queen") and Kevin Macdonald ("The Last King of Scotland") are considered among the top filmmakers and garner respect and awards for films that explore social dilemmas and political eras (Frear's "The Queen," with six Oscar nominations, is by far England's most important entry to the Academy Awards this year). In Germany, films like "Sophie Scholl" and "Downfall" keep reminding German audiences that World War II will always be part of their lives. And it was a Palestinian director, not an Israeli, who managed to enter a movie about suicide bombers in the Oscars race last year. When was the last time an Israeli film tried to take a fresh look at the Yom Kippur War or the Israeli forefathers?
Both Stav and Schory are critical of this situation.
"Although I am proud of the courage that Israeli filmmakers show in telling their personal stories, I am thirsty for some recruited cinema," Schory said. "And I don't care if it is right or left, liberal or conservative, religious or secular. All I'm asking is: Give me some ideology."
But Volman said he believes that sometimes what appears to be personal is in fact thought provoking politically or socially.
"Many of my movies deal with the place of old people in our society," he said. "And I think that as a filmmaker I tend to show mercy for the weak -- the old, the different and the immigrant. These ideas of social justice can be shown through personal stories, without recruitment and without slogans."
Schory admits the Israeli Film Fund is searching for films that can actually stir emotions because they are controversial.
"I'm proud we decided to fund and promote 'What a Wonderful Place,'" he said. It "dealt bravely with the open wounds of the foreign workers phenomena, and had no problem hearing that some of the Jewish audience in America was offended by the portrayal of Israelis behaving badly. Conflict is good for art and we should not shy away from it."
Stav is not hopeful for any change soon, though.
"The liberal left in Israel is spoiled, and most of the filmmakers are among them. All they want is to sit in bars, drink vodka and [complain] about how bad the situation is," he said. "They are too hedonistic to get out there and shout against or pro anything. They simply prefer to stay in their own guarded bubble."
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