Crowdfunding campaign raises the money

Poland demands return of $55,000 grant after Dani Karavan docu-maker won’t censor it

Barak Heymann says Polish Film Institute wanted movie on iconic Israeli sculptor to show work dedicated to Poles who saved Jews during Holocaust in positive light

Israeli filmmaker Barak Heymann speaks to Channel 12 news, July 17, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12)
Israeli filmmaker Barak Heymann speaks to Channel 12 news, July 17, 2022. (Screenshot: Channel 12)

An award-winning Israeli filmmaker is being forced to return a grant to the Polish government, after he refused a demand by the country’s film institute to censor scenes in a documentary that touched on the subject of the Holocaust.

Barak Heymann was given a NIS 188,000 ($55,000) grant from the Polish Film Institute to produce High Maintenance, a movie about the life of sculptor and Israel Prize winner Dani Karavan.

The institute wanted a project Karavan worked on, dedicated to Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust, to show them in a positive light.

“I knew [Karavan] was going to do a job in Poland, I did not know it was so controversial,” Heymann told Channel 12 in a report aired Sunday.

“If they use my work to cleanse themselves of the crimes they have committed, it would hurt me greatly, and upset me greatly. I would not even forgive myself for getting into this story at all,” Karavan said in the movie, filmed in 2018, apparently referring to the Poles.

Issues of Holocaust restitution and revisionism have repeatedly plagued Israeli-Polish ties. Poland has repeatedly worked to deny and minimize Polish involvement in the Holocaust, despite historical evidence to the contrary, sparking outcry from Israel.

The institute did not watch the film for two years after it was given a copy, the report said. Only after its official release and after it won several awards, did the institute watch it, and demand Heymann censor certain scenes in the film, or return the grant.

“The Poles won’t allow me to make a film with their money that brings out a painful, embarrassing, and traumatic truth for them,” Heymann told Channel 12.

The filmmaker initially agreed to make minor edits to the documentary, and flew to Poland for a screening with the film institute.

“After half an hour, the head of the Polish Film Institute got up [from his seat] angrily, started raging and getting angry, turned off the screening, and said, ‘Get out of here! I believe in freedom of speech but your film is hate speech,'” Heymann said.

Refusing their demands, Heymann must now return the sum, and has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money. As of Monday, the campaign had reached NIS 161,600 ($47,000) of the NIS 188,000 goal. (Update: By Tuesday, the full sum had been raised.)

File: Israeli sculptor artist Dani Karavan poses for a picture in the Knesset on July 11, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Karavan, known for his monuments in Israel and around the world, died last year at age 90.

Perhaps his most notable work in Israel is the huge wall carving decorating the plenum of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, named “Jerusalem, City of Peace.”

The wall depicts an abstract Jerusalem landscape, the surrounding hills, and the Judean Desert. The project was commissioned in 1966 and took eight months to complete.

His many works in Israel include the Habima Square in Tel Aviv, “Ohel” at Sheba Medical Center, “Kikar Levana” in Tel Aviv’s Edith Wolfson Park, the Monument to the Negev Brigade near Beersheba and the “Way of Peace” near Israel’s border with Egypt.

Most Popular
read more: