Rivlin Remembers Lia Van Leer: A Woman of Vision, a Dreamer With a Prophetic Spirit’

Legendary founder and manager of Jerusalem Cinematheque and film festival is laid to rest.

Emil Salman

A long of line of directors, producers, actors and others from the film industry were among hundreds who on Monday paid their last respects to Lia Van Leer, who established and for decades managed the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the Jerusalem International Film Festival.

Van Leer passed away on Friday at age 90 in in Jerusalem.

President Reuven Rivlin, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, Culture and Sports Minister Limor Livnat and French Ambassador Patrick Maisonnave were among the mourners who gathered at the Cinematheque.

“A woman of vision, a dreamer, with a prophetic spirit, marching around Jerusalem, always determined to fulfill a dream,” Rivlin eulogized her.

“I remember you told me how you and Wim” — her late husband — “decided not to buy a cinema but to collect films. From your home library grew a national enterprise, the photographic archive of Jewish history and the State of Israel.”

Van Leer’s coffin was set in the middle of the grassy lawn next to the Cinematheque, covered with a lavender cloth – a color she so loved and was identified with.

“You believed that culture and artistic cinema are the flower we live for, and in the name of this belief you gave Jerusalem the beautiful ornaments of culture, in all their finery,” said Rivlin.

“For Jerusalem, you were a woman who was an idea, institution in the best meaning of the word, and always believed that cinema was an unsurpassed tool for creating a dialogue between various groups.”

Noa Regev, director of the Cinematheque, said that even in her final years Van Leer continued to be active there. Every day she came to work there, and in the evenings she participated in various events there and at other cultural institutions, Regev said.

“Lia never was willing to give up on what she saw as important,” Regev said. “She had a firm opinion on every matter, from fateful issues to the smallest detail.

“But more than that, she always had the strength to insist and work for what she believed in. Lia did not wait for something to happen and never let anything stop her: She was independent and set facts on the ground. And that is exactly how she created a number of the most important cultural enterprises in Israel.”

In 1998, Van Leer won a lifetime-achievement award from the Israel Film Academy, and in 2004 she received the Israel Prize for her life’s work. She received a similar honor at the Berlin Film Festival in 2011.

Seven years ago Van Leer stepped down from managing the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the film festival but stayed on as the institution’s president.