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November 25, 1988 - Image 114

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1988-11-25

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

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114

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Israel Film Archive
Captures Jewish History

MARLENE GOLDMAN

Special to The Jewish News

T

he Jewish struggle for
a homeland, with all
its setbacks and
glories, is split into some
3,000 cans of film. But at
least they all exist under the
same roof.
Gathering as many of these
recorded segments of Jewish
history as possible is the goal
of the Jewish Film Archive —
The world's largest repository
of footage of Jewish content
and interest, located at
Hebrew University in
Jerusalem.
"We want the archive to
serve as a central resource on
film material," explained
Marilyn Koolik, director of
the archive.
The subjects of these films
range from scenes of Jewish
prisoners at Dachau — in a
1946 documentary about the
Jewish Brigade in Europe
during World War II, called
Road to Liberty — to footage
of Molly Picon, posing as a
boy fiddler in a 1936 rendi-
tion of the Yiddish musical,
Yendl Mitn Fidl.
One of the most requested
films at the archive, which
was founded in 1969 as part
of the Institute of Contem-
porary Jewry of Hebrew
University, is the oldest one
in the collection, The First
Film of Palestine, shot in
1911.
Not only does this show
Jewish pioneers in new set-
tlements and Turkish soldiers
on parade, but it is also the
first portrayal of Jews praying
at the Western Wall.
"It's an amazing piece,"
Koolik said. "In one shot, a
little girl sees a photographer
and she doesn't know what'a
camera is. She tugs on her
mother's skirt and points."
Israel's first filmmaker,
Yaacov Ben Dov, captures on
camera stonemasons com-
pleting the amphitheater of
the Hebrew University on
Mount Scopus.
There are also his shots of
Lord Balfour, Chaim Weiz-
mann, Judah Magnes and
other dignitaries at the open-
ing ceremony of the
university.
Other rare footage includes
shots from Jewish com-
munities wiped out by the
Holocaust, such as Bialystok,
Poland, which remain the on-
ly source of visual
documentation.
An even broader account of
the Holocaust secured on
film depicts the Eichmann

trial in 1961, including hun-
dreds of reels of videotape of
the original trial, and various
documentaries produced by
Jewish organizations.
'Mapes of the Eichmann trial
served as background re-
search for comparison to the
Demjanjuk trial, according to
Koolik.
The archive's collection con-
sists mostly of film provided
by Jewish organizations, such
as the Jewish Agency, the
World Zionist Organization,
Keren Hayesod and the
Jewish National Fund.
"They were producing pro-
paganda," Koolik admits,
"but it's a visual history of
Israel's first 40 years."
Ten years ago, the archive
purchased the entire film col-

There are shots of
Lord Balfour,
Chaim Weizmann
and other
dignitaries.

lection of Baruch Agadati,
one of Israel's pioneer film-
makers from the 1920s and
'30s.
But those films, like most
that were shot early on, need-
ed to be transferred from
nitrate-based film, which
disintegrates with time, to
acetate-based safety film.

Nearly 135 cans of nitrate
film had to be sent to
England, costing the archive
about $3,000 because Israel is
not equipped to transfer the
film.
The costs were partially
funded by studios in
Hollywood, a result of fund-
raising efforts of Moses
Rothman, who owns the
rights to Charlie Chaplin
films.
Even footage shot on
chemically-safe film requires
preservation measures.
Since most of the collection
exists solely on positive print,
the archive recently began
sending its rarities to
specialized laboratories for
transfer to negative film. This
process can run over $400 per
film, according to Koolik.
A special negative storage
room has also been set aside
for film protection.
As a third step, the archive,
now duplicates to video its
frequently viewed films,
preventing physical damage
to the original print.

Jewish Telegraphic Agency

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