Israeli state of mindIsraeli state of mind

Film fest harnesses power to change

The American Independent Film Festival comes to Israel, bringing together media and technology to explore social impact

Jessica Steinberg, The Times of Israel's culture and lifestyles editor, covers the Sabra scene from south to north and back to the center

Lysbeth Sherman wanted to create a meeting of the minds. So she did just that and set up States of Minds, an interdisciplinary conference on media, technology and education.

At the heart of the event is the American Independent Film Festival, which is being held for a second year in Israel, with screenings, workshops and master classes held at cinematheques and other institutions around the country.

The States of Minds project all began when Sherman, a French native, was working at the French Embassy in Washington, DC and helped organize a film festival. She started thinking about the power of films, and their ability to help initiate change. She also visited Israel for the first time, and came up with idea of using the festival to promote cultural exchange between Israel and the US.

The first State of Minds event was held in Israel in August 2013. This year’s event, held later than anticipated because of last summer’s war, includes the US Embassy in Tel Aviv as a partner, as well as the Motion Picture Association of American (MPAA) and the US Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).

“It’s very broad,” said Sherman. “The diplomatic component makes it unique as well.”

There’s a long list of events in this year’s program, with eight feature-length films and five documentaries.

Some of the films being screened include Ben Nabor’s “William and the Windmill,” an award-winning documentary about William Kamkwamba, who created a power-generating windmill from spare parts to save his family from famine in Malawi, and Anna Weller’s “Unorthodox,” about three Jewish college-age teens spending a year in Israel. Both of those filmmakers will be present for the conference.

Several of the filmmakers are taking part in the event, teaching workshops, producing short movies with young filmmakers and offering master classes.

One of the filmmakers, Garrett Bradley, whose film, “Below Dreams,” is about three individuals in New Orleans, will be conducting a master class at Jerusalem’s YMCA to a group of Palestinian and Jewish kids and their mentors.

Bradley said States of Minds is unlike other film festivals. “There are three key components to creating change and those are education, technology and diplomacy,” he said. “They’re very concrete ways of executing revolution in a positive way. For me, as a filmmaker, this is just sort of an extension of that.”

The American Independent Film Festival are being held at the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa and Holon Cinematheques through March 5. Other States of Minds events are listed on the event website.

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