35 Reasons Not to Cut the Film Budget

A series of intriguing Israeli films are now in advanced stages of production, and are scheduled for release this year and the next. Several other films are expected to begin filming within the next six months. Nevertheless, local film lovers, artists and film industry members have cause for concern.

At the end of this year, in just four more months, the government-sponsored agreement that brought the film industry NIS 58 million a year for the last five years will expire. Since the agreement went into effect, Israeli film has been thriving: Films produced here have won prestigious prizes all over the world, Israeli film became a hot item, especially at international film festivals, and the sums foreign production companies invest in local productions are steadily increasing. But the Finance Ministry is not looking to formulate a new agreement, and with every passing day, the film industry's chances of starting 2009 without a budget increase.

Worse than that, some fear that Finance Ministry officials will even decide to use this opportunity to reduce this budget. The immediate significance of such a cut would be a reduction in the number of films produced here, fewer opportunities for artists, and as a result, a break in the Israeli film industry's momentum.

If the politicians and Finance Ministry officials do not grasp the importance of enabling the industry to continue growing, this list of films is likely to mark the end of the local film industry's golden age.

In the meantime, it is still possible to enjoy its fruits. In addition to films by esteemed directors such as Keren Yedaya ("Or"), Tawfik Abu Wael ("Atash," or "Thirst"), Dover Koshashvili ("Late Wedding"), Renen Schorr ("Late Summer Blues"), Nir Bergman ("Broken Wings") and Roni Ninio ("Actors" and the television series "A Touch Away" - "B'merhak Negia"), the list also includes works by young directors who, thanks to government support, had an opportunity to work on their first feature film and prove their talent.

This long list, which includes 20 movies that already have been filmed and are now in the editing stage, one in filming and 14 others scheduled to start filming over the next six months, and the large range of subjects, artists and cinematic styles, attest to the interesting period Israeli film is experiencing. Although not all of the films presumably will be successful, this abundance provides local artists with room for maneuvering, learning, and trial and error, and the large quantity increases the chances of quality, as was the case here in recent years.

New films

Three newly finished, intriguing films will soon be premiering at international festivals. "Hakol Mat'hil Bayam," written and directed by Eitan Green, will premier tomorrow (August 29) at the Montreal Film Festival. The German-Israeli-American co-production "Adam Ben Kelev," directed by Paul Schrader, will be screened next month at the Toronto Film Festival, along with the animated film "$9.99," directed by Tatia Rosenthal based on a screenplay written by Etgar Keret.

Films in postproduction

"Russoun": Two young artists, the Palestinian Scandar Copti and the Israeli Yaron Shani, wrote and directed a crime film that combines five stories. They all take place in Jaffa and depict its diverse population: Jews and Arabs, Christians and Muslims, policemen and thieves. The film features amateur actors who were trained for the roles at Jaffa acting workshops.

"Hayu Leilot": In this film, written and directed by Ron Ninio, Moshe Ivgy and his daughter Dana will for the first time play father and daughter on screen. The plot revolves around a 25-year-old woman who is trying to leave her home and her father, when a dramatic episode from the past is revealed.

"Lebanon": After "Beaufort" and "Waltz with Bashir," this film is also expected to further expand the film discussion of the First Lebanon War. Shmulik Maoz wrote and directed the movie based on the nonfiction book by a tank crew sent to Lebanon on the first day of fighting. Like "Beaufort," here too Itai Tiran and Oshri Cohen play the lead roles (alongside Michael Moshonov and Yoav Donat).

"Habodedim": This is the much talked about comeback by Renen Schorr, the founder and director of the Sam Spiegel Film School, who 20 years after his first film, "Late Summer Blues", is returning with a new film. The plot, based on a true story, follows two inmates in a military prison, lone soldiers who immigrated from Russia and feel they are not receiving equal treatment in the military, and as a result decide to rebel. The film stars Tzahi Grad and Henry David, among others.

"Five Hours from Paris": The first feature film by Leon Prudovsky, a graduate of Tel Aviv University's film department, whose short film "Dark Night" ("Laila Afel") won numerous prizes. A divorced taxi driver (Dror Keren) falls in love with his son's music teacher, but she is married, and when her husband comes to Israel, she deliberates over which man she wants to spend her life with.

"Big Story (Sippur Gadol)," also known as "My Private Sumo": An unemployed chef who finds a job as a dishwasher at a Japanese restaurant draws the attention of the restaurant's manager, who was a sumo trainer in Japan. He is slowly exposed to the world of sumo wrestling and starts a sumo wrestling class for a group of fat people like himself, who are freed from the constraints of dieting. Written and directed by Sharon Maymon ("Mortgage") and Erez Tadmor ("Strangers," or "Zarim").

"Hamadrikh Le'maha- pekha": For six years, director Doron Tsabari ("Beit Shean Seret Milhamah" also known as "Underdogs: A War Movie") has been working on this film (which in the past was called "Hakrav Al Ha'agra" (The Battle over the Fee). The film depicts the odyssey of the director, who is fighting for Broadcasting Authority reforms and is played by four different actors, to represent different stages in his life. In the spirit of the times, the film language is experimental and combines dialogue, documentation and animation.

"Bana": A mental health care worker (Shmuel Vilozhny) is raising his son (Michael Moshonov), who suffers from outbursts of anger, alone while evading the welfare authorities. When he meets Bana, a worker from Thailand who lost her job, he takes her into his home, falls in love with her and helps her search for her lost husband. Written and directed by Niv Kleiner.

"Fobidilyah": Teen favorites Ofer Schechter and Efrat Boimold star in Yoav and Doron Paz's film, based on Yizhar Har-Lev's book. A young man working in computers develops agoraphobia and decides to cut himself off from the world and shut himself up in his home, and runs his life via the television and Internet. When he learns that he must vacate his apartment, he decides to fight the decree.

"Zion and His Brothers": The debut feature film by Eran Merav ("Underdog") follows the relationship between two brothers, aged 14 and 17, who experience a crisis after witnessing a train crash in which a boy is killed. They decide not to tell anyone about it, but pangs of guilt cause the younger brother to free himself from his dependence on his brother.

There is also: "Spring 41," starring Joseph Pines and directed by Uri Barabash; "On the Way to the Cats," based on Yehoshua Kenaz's book, directed by Jorge Gurvich; "Mooki," is directed by Slava and Lina Chaplin; "Ili and Ben," a children's film directed by Uri Ravid; and "I am Bialik," directed by Aviv Talmor (all of these will apparently be screened at the Haifa Film Festival); and "Od Ani Holekh" directed by Yaki Yehoshua ("Susetz"); "Mofa Hahaim Shel Gutel Butal," directed by Daniel Sivan; "Zerubavel," directed by Shmuel Beru; "We Are Not Alone," directed by Lior Har Lev; and "Seven Minutes in Paradise," directed by Omri Givon.

In filming

"Walls": "A film about two young women and lots of pistols," as director Danny Lerner puts it. Since the women are Ninette and the new James Bond girl Olga Kurylenko, and given the fact that an action film is a rare sight here, his work is certainly intriguing. The fact that Lerner's previous low-budget film, "Frozen Days," received many favorable reviews further increases the anticipation.

In pre-production

"Bride of the Sea": Keren Yedaya, whose film "Or" earned her the Cannes golden camera award, is again collaborating with the actresses Ronit Elkabetz and Dana Ivgy. This time Ivgy will play a young woman who falls in love with an Arab who works at her family's garage in Jaffa. Elkabetz and Moni Moshonov will play her parents.

"Tanathor" (Breakdown): another director who won a prize in Cannes, Tawfik Abu Wael, will soon begin shooting his next film, about a married bourgeois couple from Ramallah. After 20 years of marriage, and after losing their son, they decide to immigrate to London, but then their relationship starts to break down.

"An X-ray Burst": Eitan Tzur ("The Bourgeoisie," "The Cameri Quintet") will direct a script by Edna Mazya, based on her book of the same name. The plot follows a professor married to a beautiful young woman who discovers that she has a lover, murders her and is left consumed by guilt.

"Infiltration": This film is based on Yehoshua Kenaz's book "Hitganvut Yehidim" (originally published as "Heart Murmur," now known as "Infiltration"). Shooting was put on hold because director Dover Koshashivili left to direct an American film. Production is scheduled to resume in February. The film is set in the 1950s, and follows a group of soldiers in basic training with limited physical abilities at Bahad (Training Base) 4.

"The Book of Internal Grammar": Nir Bergman will direct based on a script he wrote, based on David Grossman's book "Hadikduk Hapnimi." Shooting is set to start in another six months.

"Birkia Hahamishi": Dina Zvi Riklis ("Three Sisters") will direct based on a script written by Alma Ganihar, from Rachel Eitan's book about a young girl who arrives at an orphanage in Palestine in 1944, after all trace of her mother was lost in Europe.

"U'bayom Hashlishi": the first film directed by Moshe Ivgy, who worked on the screenplay for 11 years. He is now casting; filming is scheduled to start in March.

And a few other debut films that will be filmed over the coming months: Hadar Friedlich will shoot her film, "Hannah M."; Nadav Lapid will shoot "The Policeman"; Haim Tabakman will shoot "Einayim Pekuhot"; Alon Zingman will shoot "Dusk"; Ami Drozd will shoot "My Australia"; Yariv Horowitz will shoot "Rock in the Casbah" and Avishai Sivan will shoot the independent film "Hameshotet."

In addition, Shemi Zarhin ("Aviva, My Love") and Eran Kolirin ("The Band's Visit") are now working separately on screenplays for films they will direct, and which will probably be filmed in 2009. Another screenplay in an advanced stage of work is the film "This is Sodom," to be directed by Adam Sanderson, and starring the cast of the successful television show, "Eretz Nehederet" (Wonderful Country).