Documentary, my dear Watson

Documentary, my dear Watson

Israel's New Council for Film and Television is kicking off its 20th anniversary this week with a documentary film conference in Tel Aviv

Debra writes for the JTA, and is a former features writer for The Times of Israel.

Leonard Retel Helmrich, acclaimed Dutch filmmaker, will teach a master class. (photo credit: Wikimedia)
Leonard Retel Helmrich, acclaimed Dutch filmmaker, will teach a master class. (photo credit: Wikimedia)

When not one but two documentary films from Israel nabbed Oscar nominations in the Best Documentary category last year, it affirmed what staffers at Israel’s New Fund for Cinema and Television have known for quite some time: Israeli documentary filmmaking is experiencing a renaissance, and there are stories to be told here that are unique to the world.

On Thursday and Friday, the NFCT, a nonprofit organization committed to bolstering Israeli cinema and supporting the creativity of its filmmakers, kicks of its 20th anniversary in Tel Aviv with the annual Documentary Film Conference at the ZOA building on Ibn Gvirol Street. The event will gather some of Israel’s most promising documentary filmmakers with those who are more established for a series of screenings, networking events and panel discussions. The highlight of the event will be a master class and photography workshop with Leonard Retel Heimrich, an acclaimed Dutch director and cinematographer known for his distinctive style of single shot filming.

The NFCT has supported a number of successful Israeli films, two of the most prominent being Ari Folman’s Oscar-nominated “Waltz With Bashir,” the animated psychedelic journey into Folman’s own demons after fighting in the First Lebanon War; and Arnon Goldfinger’s haunting documentary “The Flat,” a sweeping story of stumbling upon a Holocaust history in his 98-year-old grandmother’s apartment.

“Our conference is dedicated to the filmmaking process, to giving filmmakers who are working here an opportunity to meet and work with filmmakers who can teach and inspire them,” says Sigal Yehuda, the conference’s artistic director.

Senior executives from Israel’s top broadcasters will also join the conference on Thursday, allowing the filmmakers in attendance to ask questions, get advice and even perhaps exchange business cards. Those on hand include Yossi Mulli, executive producer at the Second Authority for Television and Radio; Guy Lavie, director at Yes Docu; Rinat Klein, commissiong editor at Channel 8; Ital Landsberg, director of the documentary department at Israel’s Channel 1; Oren Gazit, head of program development at Reshet TV; Adi Garti, head of documentaries for Keshet; and Tzipi Baider, commissioning editor at Channel 10.

Last year, “The Gatekeepers,” which scored in-depth interviews with six former heads of Israel’s internal security service, and “5 Broken Cameras,” about a West Bank village affected by the construction of Israel’s security fence, were nominated for Best Documentary at the 2012 Academy Awards.

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