In “The Museum,” a documentary about Jerusalem’s Israel Museum, filmmaker Ran Tal takes viewers on a tour behind the scenes, offering a masterful view of the tremendous cultural institution in just 74 minutes.
Tal does the job delicately and carefully, using a wide view of staff members and visitors to show how the museum operates.
There’s the security guard who is also a cantor (the scenes with the dozens of security guards assembled to receive receiving their gallery assignments is one of the best), the ultra-Orthodox kosher supervisor who also guides visitors, and a view of nighttime rounds in the museum’s sculpture garden, when a wild jackal’s eyes gleam brightly in the beam of the guard’s flashlight.
There are als designers setting up art galleries for new exhibits, a museum conservator carefully brushing the fake pubic hair of Charles Ray’s set of nude mannequins used in the 2016 “A Brief History of Humankind,” and Dudi Mevorach, a curator working on the massive 2013 exhibit about Herod, and reflecting on how Jerusalem has changed in his own lifetime.
Included, of course, is James Snyder, the longtime director of the museum who arrived from New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1995 and changed the purview and look of the museum in his 20 years of tenure.
He speaks reflectively and a bit tearfully about growing up as a nerdy Jewish boy in a far-flung Pennsylvania town, where he remembers bringing a piece of matzah wrapped in foil for Passover lunches at school. His parents’ only trip to Israel was for his son’s bar mitzvah, and it was then that they appreciated and were proud of the scope of his work at the museum.
“The Museum” was first screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and opens in Israeli theaters November 30. Put it on your list of must-see movies.