Veteran Israeli Filmmaker Avraham Heffner Dies at 79

Heffner's 1972 film 'But Where Is Daniel Wax?' is widely considered one of the best Israeli films ever made.

Nirit Anderman
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Avraham Heffner.
Avraham Heffner.Credit: Itay Neeman
Nirit Anderman

Avraham Heffner, veteran Israeli director, screenwriter, actor and author, died on Friday at age 79.

Heffner was born in Haifa in 1935, the only child of Polish immigrants. After his military service at the Nahal brigade's performance troupe, he studied literature and philosophy in Jerusalem and Paris. Heffner began his film studies in the 1960s in New York, where he made his first short films.

Heffner's first foray into the Israeli film scene was as an actor and screenwriter. His directorial debut in Israel, the 1967 short film "Slow Down," was based on a short story by Simone de Beauvoir. It won the award for best short film at the Venice Film Festival and is considered one of the most influential Israeli short films.

"Slow Down" also heralded a new cinematic wave in Israel - later dubbed "New Sensitivity" - which resisted the "Zionist realism" on one hand and the popular "burekas movies" on the other. The "New Sensitivity" genre was influenced by the French New Wave and emphasized aesthetic, novel and personal values.

Heffner's first feature-length film, "But Where Is Daniel Wax?" (1972), is considered one of the greatest Israeli films ever made. It tells the story of an Israeli singer living in the U.S., who returns home for a class reunion and embarks on a search for a missing classmate.  

Heffner's other films included "Aunt Clara" (1977), "Parashat Winchell" (1979) and "Laura Adler's Last Love Affair"(1990). Throughout his career Heffner also wrote two books on cinema and several works of fiction.

In 2004, Heffner was awarded the Ophir Award for lifetime achievements.

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