Israel Film Industry Opposes Plan to Bring 'Cannes' to Eilat

Israel Film Fund says it rather see existing festivals benefit from the NIS 20m the gov't plans to invest in the new one.

An initiative to create an international film festival in Eilat modeled on France's Cannes Film Festival is raising strong opposition from the local film industry, which would rather see existing Israeli festivals benefit from the NIS 20 million the government is planning on investing in the new one.

The Israel Film Fund said even if the Eilat festival did bring more high-profile celebrities and film industry professionals into the country, as intended, that wouldn't necessarily lead to an increase in the number of foreign movies filmed here.

"If the intention is to attract foreign productions to Israel via the festival, conditions first have to be created - what incentives the government is offering these productions," said fund director Katriel Schory. "At the moment Israel can't compete in this area with other countries."

Festival coordinators, producers and film fund managers said they had not been consulted on the Eilat plan, which was proposed two months ago by producer and director Yoram Globus, songwriter Kobi Oshrat and Yoav Igra, one of the owners of the Herod's Palace Hotel in Eilat. The critics also said the plan, which has been endorsed by the tourism and labor ministries, was impractical.

"We are not opposed to the festival in principle, but it is not realistic to put on a festival of such a size as the one under discussion," said Ilan de Vries, the outgoing director of the Jerusalem Film Festival. "In a festival the size of Cannes the investment must be enormous, something like the entire Israeli culture budget, and that's not realistic. In addition, it cannot be that the government will decide so capriciously to invest tens of millions of shekels in one festival, and not invest as well in the Haifa and Jerusalem film festivals, which have proven themselves over the years, and attracted contributions and sponsors, and succeeded in bringing stars and other film people to the country."

De Vries said the Tourism Ministry has never considered suggestions by the Jerusalem Film Festival that it invest money to attract tourists to the capital. "All our advances to the ministry have been rebuffed," he said.

The proposal calls for the government funding to come from five ministries: those responsible for tourism, the Negev and the Galilee, culture, finance, and industry and trade. The NIS 20 million in government funding would be matched by private sponsors, according to the plan.

Pnina Bleyer, the director of the Haifa International Film Festival, questioned the government's focus on Eilat.

"There are two large international film festivals in Israel, and I don't see why so much money has to be given to the new one in Eilat," she said. "From my perspective, each city can have its own film festival, but when it comes to the government budget, why not strengthen festivals that have already proven themselves? Does the country really need another international festival?"

The Israeli producers association objected to the plan as well.

"We are shocked and hurt that no one consulted with the relevant professional bodies," said chairman Mosh Danon. "I don't understand the justification for such a festival. It is possible to take the money earmarked for it, and invest it in original film productions."

The Tourism Ministry steering committee will "focus on all aspects of the feasibility of the festival at the accepted international standards of the leading film festivals, on the model of Cannes or Venice," said Amnon Lieberman, communications adviser to Tourism Minister Stas Misezhnikov, who supports the festival.

The steering committee, headed by Tourism Ministry director general Noaz Bar Nir, will hold its first meeting Sunday to formulate the criteria that will be used to examine the plan's feasibility.