The Arty Semite

Israeli Films Get an International Platform Online

By Josh Tapper

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On July 1, the Israel Film Center — housed at The JCC in Manhattan — launched the Israeli Film Database for public access. Conceived two years ago, the database has served primarily as a tool for Israeli film professionals to document and market their work. Now, anyone can view profiles for over 3000 Israeli films from the early 1960s to the present day.

While many of the titles will be unfamiliar even to those with an extensive knowledge of Israeli film (late 1990’s student films, anyone?), displaying the country’s cinematic history is just the point, said IFC director Isaac Zablocki, who also served as a filmmaker in the Israel Defense Forces. The Arty Semite contributor Josh Tapper spoke with Zablocki about IFC’s ambition to create a platform that will jointly serve industry types and boost Israeli cinema’s American profile.

Josh Tapper: Why create the Israeli Film Database?

Isaac Zablocki: We felt there was a need. A lot of people were trying to access Israeli films and it wasn’t always easy. We wanted to create a tool that would connect the community with the industry. There is no one platform for Israeli cinema. Many industries — Germany, for example — have programs for their films that promote them to the world. Before us, the official place to go was the Israeli consulate. But a national film resource shouldn’t be a government-run organization. The Israeli Film Database will be that international platform for Israeli films. Anybody looking for great world cinema will see this as an access point.

How will the IFC contribute to the emergence of Israeli cinema?

In the last 10 years the Israeli film industry has really developed, and especially in the last five. We’re seeing very high quality films being made. We’re seeing young filmmakers with more artistic freedom, confident in their own voices. Israel has more film schools per capita than anywhere else in the world, so there’s a lot of potential. To those familiar with [the IFC’s] work, we focus on the younger generation. In Israel, film represents the voice of the new generation. Most of the films are coming from young directors. It’s amazing to see the new voices that are exploding on the scene and making an impact internationally. I see the site as being something for the future as well as it for the past.

Why aren’t Americans familiar with Israeli films?

It’s a changing process here. Americans are less familiar than Europeans toward high quality Israeli cinema. Americans don’t follow film festivals as religiously as Europeans. One of the goals of the center is to make these films as accessible as possible, so that whatever obstacles are in the way, it will give Americans a chance to see films — and portrayals of life in Israel — they haven’t seen.

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