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July 22, 1988 - Image 54

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-07-22

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

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54

FRIDAY, JULY 22, 1988

It's A Wrap

Continued from preceding page

PLAIN OMELETTE ONLY WITH
TOAST & JELLY . . . GET ONE .. .

help develop a strong
infrastructure.
Local film administrators
stress that Israeli entries can
now be found at almost every
significant foreign film
festival, an accomplishment
which bears no relation to the
small size and limited finan-
cial means of the State of
Israel. What also bears noting
is that while impressive local
film studio facilities already
exist, construction is still con-
tinuing on the ambitious and
technically advanced Golan-
Globus-owned 50-acre film
center outside Jerusalem,
although rumors of financial
problems are rife.
Film production in Israel
per se is thriving, with in-
creasing numbers of foreign
film companies coming to this
country to shoot major on-
location productions, thereby
providing work for hundreds
of Israeli film technicians, ac-
tors, and, to a far lesser
degree, local directors.
At the same time, there is a
burgeoning production of
specifically Israeli quality
films, though more often than
not, the latter fail to break in-
to the foreign market or to ob-
tain a profit for the films'
backers. Consequently, the
"brain drain" abroad, which
affects any number of sectors
in Israel, has also come to af-
fect the local film world:
talented directors and actors
often go elsewhere to seek
fame and fortune.
When discussing the pro-
blems which beset specifical-
ly Israeli quality films, a
general consensus emerges
among leaders in the field.
The problems are known, but
disagreement exists over the
best way to implement the
solutions.
The most prominent hard-
ships, though, are five-fold:
government help which is
perceived by filmmakers as
insufficient; the creation of
tax shelters and deductions
which could be used to pro-
mote the making of better
films — a step that yielded in-
ternational results for
Australian cinema — con-
tinues to be opposed by Israeli
tax authorities; cooperation
between Israel Television
(ITV) and local filmmakers re-
mains minimal and under-
developed; the glaring shor-
tage of professionally ex-
perienced Israeli screen-
writers; the local film market
is so small that the chances of
turning a profit at home are
practically non-existent,
while the likelihood of obtai-
ing full-scale theatrical
distribution rights abroad for
Israeli films is also extreme-
ly slim.
The problems are substan-

Muhammed Bakri, standing left, and Arnon Tsadok, standing right,
appear in a scene from "Beyond the Walls."

tial. Yet so, too, are the mark-
ed artistic advances made by
Israeli directors and film
technicians. And in this con-
text, the financial bottom
line, though of great impor-
tance, is not the sole
consideration.
Baruch Dinar, the executive
director for the Fund for the
Promotion of Israeli Quality
Films, notes that of the 38
Israeli feature films which
received financial assistance
since the fund was establish-
ed in 1979, only three —
"Noah, 17 Years Old,"
"Beyond the Walls" and
"Late Summer Blues" —
have turned a profit. "During
the last 20 years," Dinar
points out, "perhaps only ten
of the approximately 300
Israeli feature films that were
made, were acquired for bona
fide commercial distribution
abroad!'
In assessing the conditions
of the local film industry,
Dinar comes right to the
point: "Due to the increasing
number of foreign studio pro-
ductions in Israel," he says,
"Israeli film technicians will
continue to be able to make a
living here. But unless the
government changes its
policies on funding and other-
wise aiding the film industry,
most Israeli directors will not
be able to work. Many will
continue to leave the field, or
else will leave the country."
Israel is clearly attracting
increasing numbers of foreign
studios to shoot "on-location?'
Itzik Kol, the executive direc-
tor of G.G. Israel Studios, a
subsidiary of Cannon Films,
points out that well-known
American studios such as
Columbia, Tri-Star, Cannon
and Carolco are now filming
in Israel on a regular basis.

Kol notes that foreign
studios shot 14 feature films
in Israel during 1986. During
that year, $16 million was
spent in Israel by foreign pro-
ductions — $11 million by
Cannon alone. (In contrast, $4
million was spent on the 16
Israeli films made that year.)
While there can be no
disputing that G.G. Israel
Studios and Cannon have pro-
vided work for hundreds of
Israeli film employees and
generated millions of dollars
in revenues, there is room to
debate whether they have ad-
vanced the state of specifical-
ly quality Israeli films. In this
context, Kol's assessment of
the local market is less than
glowing. "The problem is that
you need a big budget, and
one million dollars is very lit-
tle when conpared with film
costs around the world. There
is also a language problem. If
you shoot a film in Hebrew,
there's absolutely no way that
you're going to make a profit?'
G.G. Israel Studios has
resolved this particular pro-
blem by not shooting feature
films in Hebrew. Its locally
produced films are shot in
English and sent off to the
American and European
market. And looking ahead,
warns Kol, "if the education
ministry does not take steps,
film in Israel will become a
foreign language media."
The problem is a legitimate
one, and it is pressing. An
average of 2,350,000 tickets
are sold annually for the ap-
proximately 13 Israeli films
that come out each year.
Moreover, many, if not most,
of the films which are aided
by the Education Ministry
Fund never reach the Israeli
movie-going public, or they
barely survive a short run

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