Soldiers in free fall parachuting, an ultra-Orthodox man blowing a shofar, ugly fonts looking as if they came out of a wedding video taken in the eighties and, to top it off, embarrassing grade-school level spelling mistakes. This is what a festive short film produced at the initiative of the Culture and Sports Ministry for the Israeli pavilion in Cannes looks like.
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The film festival opened on Wednesday on the French Riviera. The film, which is also shown on El Al flights in order to promote the pavilion, was intended to expose a prestigious group of filmmakers and distributors from around the world to new Israeli films. However, it may end up causing more damage than good.
In an article posted earlier this week on the NRG website, it said that Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev stood behind the initiative. Regev was quoted as saying: “I’m proud of the fact that for the first time Israel’s flag will fly over its national pavilion at one of the most important film events in the world. The launch of Israel's first national pavilion at a time we’re celebrating 68 years of independence is a moving occasion with a message to the entire world.
"Israeli filmmaking is a source of national pride and the screening of the short PR film on Israeli cinema on El Al flights is an expression of the great pride Israel takes in its artists and their creations,” she said.
The initiative is indeed a welcome one, but the result is puzzling. Ahead of the launching of the pavilion (which was added, in a controversial move, to the veteran pavilion set up at the Cannes Film Festival by the Foreign Ministry’s department of cultural and scientific relations), it was decided to produce two short films, one lasting one-and-a-half minutes and the other lasting four-and-a-half. In both cases the editing was amateurish and does not do justice to current Israeli filmmaking, which has had a consistently impressive record in recent years.
As Regev notes, both clips indeed begin with an Israeli flag fluttering in the wind. The shorter one continues with a strange blend of visual clichés lacking any context: a woman wearing a blonde wig, an aerial view of Jerusalem, an ultra-Orthodox man wearing a prayer shawl, extremely short snippets of movies such as Natalie Portman's “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” Lee Gilat’s “Encirclements,” Udi Aloni’s “Junction 48” (a critical political movie starring Tamer Nafer, with a belligerent agenda hardly likely to be knowingly promoted by Regev).
A minute into the clip, an even more delusional segment appears: An IDF PR clip showing skydiving, including attack helicopters and brave paratroopers parachuting into the sea. What connects this militaristic porno to filmmaking? Only Regev and her Ministry know.
Nevertheless, in comparison to the longer version, the short clip deserves a Palme D’Or award. The fuller version also includes short scenes from Shira Geffen’s film “Self-Made” and “Wounded Land” by Erez Tadmor, as well as a strange compilation of clips for tourists showing the Dead Sea, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and a bit of traditional “pink-washing,” with clips from some LGTB films such as “Barash” by Michal Vinik. The longer clip ends with the words “Israeli Deligetion” instead of Delegation.
Considering the fact that Israel is blessed with not insignificant numbers of brilliant editors, it’s difficult to understand how a film into which abundant resources were invested looks so embarrassing. Regrettably, these two clips do a disservice to the directors whose films deserve generous and creative exposure at the festival.