festival - Olivier Fitoussi - July 8 2011
The opening of the Jerusalem International Film Festival last night. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi
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The largest of the six main foundations that support filmmaking in Israel has said it will attempt to place more women on its selection committees.

The announcement by the Israel Film Fund comes in response to a written request from 88 female filmmakers and the five other important funding sources for local films: the Yehoshua Rabinowitz Foundation for the Arts, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, the Makor Foundation for Israeli Films, the New Fund for Cinema and Television and the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund.

Signatories to the letter, which was sent to the Israel Film Fund several weeks ago, include Keren Yedaya, Shira Geffen, Yael Perlov, Yael Abecassis and Julie Shles.

"It sometimes happens that a woman filmmaker is forced to sell and defend her idea to men who do not necessarily identify with her experiences as a woman, or with the interesting and intriguing dilemmas that derive from her perspective as a woman," the letter stated. "As a result, we find that important issues find their way to the screen too little and too late."

According to the letter, most of the panels to which those who seek funding must pitch their ideas - comprised of three readers chosen by the head of the foundation - have a male majority. The signatories asked that this imbalance be corrected going forward, so that "half the times [the panel would consist of] two women and one man, and half the times two men and one woman."

During the past few weeks, the heads of the Israel Film Fund and the Rabinowitz Foundation met with representatives of the group of female filmmakers. Katriel Schory, head of the IFF, said on Monday that his organization had agreed to make every effort to meet the demand regarding the makeup of the funding panels, but added, "At present we don't have enough female reader candidates and are waiting for the group of women filmmakers to give us a list of potential candidates."

Giora Eini, director of the Rabinowitz Foundation, said that while his organization would take the group's demand into consideration, "I cannot commit to specific numbers."

Yedaya said the letter was prompted by a sense of disgust and "the feeling that our voice must be heard more."

"Women spoke of uncomfortable moments with script readers who didn't know what to do with their stories because there's nothing for it," Yedaya said. "Men speak a slightly different - perhaps slightly less empathetic - language regarding the stories of women."

She said the filmmakers raised two additional issues in their meetings with Schory and Eini. Yedaya warned that young female directors, "like me, who want children, are in a race against time," and could be lost to the profession if forced to wait for four or five years before securing funding for their movies.

She also noted an imbalance in the number of projects headed by women that are greenlighted, as opposed to those headed by men. "If a foundation approves funding for 13 projects a year, and only three are headed by women, we have a problem that must be addressed," Yedaya said.