A website that aims to be the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) for Israeli cinema went online last week.
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The Cinema of Israel site is a joint venture between the Culture and Sports Ministry, the Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts and the Mifal Hapayis national lottery, with the ministry calling it “the first digital book of Israeli cinema.”
The Hebrew-only website (www.cinemaofisrael.co.il) currently contains information on 750 full-length Israeli movies and 100 documentaries. Like the IMDb, it allows users to search by the name of the film or the names of cast and crew members involved in making it.
It also has one significant feature the U.S. site lacks: Reviews and other media articles that discuss any given movie were scanned in especially for the project and appear as part of that film’s entry.
The site, which aims to prove a valuable resource for students, researchers, journalists, film professionals and the general public, also provides data about the film’s budget and the number of people who saw it, plus a full credits list, stills, video clips, and more.
However, based on the initial tests conducted by Haaretz, the site has room for improvement.
The large amount of information provided on each film is excellent, but the search engine itself is problematic. For instance, if you type the word “Gett” (in Hebrew) into the search box, hoping to find information on the 2014 film by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz, you get such a long list of names and keywords that it’s hard to find “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” among them.
Another search, for “Rachel,” provided a long list of women by that name who participated in making various movies, but not the eponymous 1960 film by Nuri Habib.
Prominent documentaries from recent years, like the Oscar-nominated “The Gatekeepers” (2012) and “Censored Voices” (2015), aren’t in the database yet, either.
Moreover, every name of a person appearing in the search results list is generally accompanied by a poorly chosen picture of that person.
The Culture Ministry is particularly proud of the fact that the database contains articles about films and people that were commissioned especially for the project. But very few of these articles have been posted so far. The site contains a mere seven articles about directors and 13 on films.
Nonetheless, the site is already extremely useful, and its flaws and deficiencies can be corrected over time.
The Culture Ministry’s statement stressed that the website is still “a work in progress,” and that additional content will be uploaded to the site in the future, including additional details on documentary films and television series.
“The ‘book’ discusses Israeli cinema from an unusual angle,” the ministry said. “Its subject is the key figures who have been active in the history of Israel’s film industry, some of whom are still active today.
“The book seeks to create a comprehensive discussion of the creativity of key directors and their influence on Israeli cinema, and to provide a comprehensive perspective on the uniqueness and characteristics of Israeli film in the feature and documentary fields,” the statement added.