Not About to Kick the Bucket

Dan Wolman decided that he doesn't want to wait. The screenwriter and director, who for four decades did not bother to wait for the support of the establishment every time he wanted to make one of his films, decided not to wait this time either. He decided that it really isn't a bad idea to celebrate 40 years of cinematic activity. But in order not to be dependent upon the good will of others or on the initiative of any establishment body, Wolman decided to produce the event by himself.

"Recently I've been meeting people in the street, and I see them looking at me and thinking, 'Wow, he's so skinny.' So instead of their beginning to wonder what disease I'm suffering from, I decided that I didn't want to wait for that stage. I didn't want to wait until I turned yellow or something, and suddenly people would say all kinds of things because they know that I'm about to kick the bucket."

So the festive event to sum up four decades of work, to take place this evening (Thursday) at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, and in the coming two weeks in the cinematheques in Jerusalem (next Monday, December 1), Haifa (next Thursday, December 4) and Rosh Pina (December 8) is not the celebration of a terminally ill patient who already sees the end and decides to celebrate his departure from life, as did Dahn Ben Amotz. "I decided that every 40 years I would stage such an evening. So that the next one will probably be in 2048,"smiles Wolman, who turned 67 last month.

As far as he's concerned, he quickly explains, the evening is by no means a declaration that he is resigning, adding that already now he is working on two new films: one a subversive film that is already in production and the other a film and a television series based upon Shulamit Lapid's book "Gai Oni."

"Mischievously, I decided to stage an evening like this because I feel that I want to, and I want to control what happens in it," he explains. "I was really afraid that they would put on an evening for me some time with prizes and with people talking about me. I don't want that. I don't want an evening during which all kinds of experts will talk about my contribution to cinema, and I don't want film crews to tell how I always pay on time and am very nice, and I don't want to stand there and start thanking people, because that would take hours. Anyone who knows me and my style understands that it won't be formal or dramatic, but something small and modest."

"I see that things come together in the end and touch people"

Like his unconventional decision about the 40-year anniversary celebration, Wolman himself is an unusual figure on the local cinema scene. He was born in 1941 in Jerusalem, studied film in New York in the 1960s, and toward the end of the decade returned to Israel to make his films here. He is the only one of his generation who continues to make films with determination and at an impressive rate, in spite of the often difficult conditions. Among his full-length feature films: "The Dreamer" (1970), which was screened in the official competition at Cannes, "Floch"(1972), which participated in the Venice Film Festival competition, "My Michael" (1974), "Hide and Seek" (1980), "Soldier of the Night" (1984), "The Distance" (1994) and "Foreign Sister" (2000), both of which won the Wolgin Prize for best film, "Ben's Biography" (2003) and "Tied Hands" (2006).

One of the recurring difficulties has been raising money for his films. But instead of giving in, he has always insisted on making his films even if it meant doing so with tiny budgets without the support of establishment foundations. "It's part of my nature," he claims. "Some people can write a script, submit it to foundations and wait half a year or a year, and then, after being turned down, are willing to translate the script into English and start sending it abroad. But I'm eager for the fun of making a film and I don't have the patience to wait five years. So instead I set dates - I tell myself that by a certain month I'll try to raise $400,000 for a film, and when the date arrives I check how much I've actually raised. If it's $70,000 I'll make the film with that."

"Many people tell me that this style of work requires a lot of concessions, but on the other hand nobody is breathing down my neck, I don't get orders from others, and I see that things come together in the end and touch people. Of course I'm still hoping that I will get to work in good conditions, with a lot of money. But if that doesn't happen - I'll continue in my own way."

However, consistently working with meager budgets has forced Wolman to compromise several times on projects. In addition to his personal full-length features and several documentaries, he has had to participate in projects that are very far from what he really likes to do. In addition to films for the United Jewish Appeal and other commercial films, he also agreed to direct two films in the "Eskimo Limon" ("Lemon Popsicle") series, and even went abroad twice to direct erotic films.

"I did those things to earn a living," says Wolman. However, in hindsight he admits that today he would not agree to do the erotic films and the Lemon Popsicle films.

For the evening in his honor Wolman chose short segments of films from his 40-year career, which he will screen as he shares thoughts and memories with the audience. "It will be an evening of peanuts and hard-boiled eggs, like those they sometimes have at the Radio City Music Hall in New York," says Wolman. "It's a combination of culture and a popular event, and because it's very long the audience brings sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs from home. I want my evening to be like that."

However, he admits that one thing is worrying him. When he screened his film "Ben's Biography" a few years ago, when a scene about cruel abuse was shown, his heart couldn't stand the excitement and he was rushed to the hospital. Although excitement was not the only reason for his irregular heartbeat, he admits he's worried. So he consulted all kinds of doctors and is taking tranquilizers, and is hoping for the best. "In spite of the risk, I decided that I don't want to give it up."