New CEO for Jerusalem festival

Ilan de Vries in the final stages of negotiations

After nearly 18 months of rumors, denials, speculation, negotiations and power struggles it looks like the Jerusalem Intl. Film Festival, Jerusalem Cinematheque and Israel Film Archive will get a new CEO on Jan. 1.

Ilan de Vries is in the final stages of contract negotiations that should be resolved by the end of November to take over from Lia Van Leer, the grande-dame of Israeli cinema.

The 83-year-old will remain chairperson of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which oversees the festival, so Van Leer will still have a hand in the fest she created with her late husband Wim Van Leer in 1984.

The Jerusalem Foundation, the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s primary supporter, has been trying to find a successor to Van Leer since early 2006.

Foundation director Ruth Chechin first approached Israeli Film Fund head Katriel Schory in mid 2006 and asked him to take over the reins.

Though rumors of the leadership change spread through the Israeli film community and press, Van Leer vehemently denied she was planning to step down.

In July, after a year of talks, Schory told Chechin that he was no longer interested in the position.

The Jerusalem Foundation then approached De Vries, a member of the Jerusalem Cinematheque board.

De Vries is no stranger to the Cinemateque — he started out as Van Leer’s deputy there in the 1980s.

After producing local hit “Late Summer Blues” De Vries became programming executive at Tel-Ad studios, one of the licensees operating Israel’s TV Channel 2 in the 1990s. He currently manages the Mishkanot Shaananim Congress and Cultural Center, also supported by the Jerusalem Foundation, and located just across the street from the Jerusalem Cinematheque.

A source close to the negotiations says that although no contract has been signed, it is believed that a statement will be released soon, and that De Vries will take over day-to-day management from Van Leer.

The fest’s 25th edition in July will celebrate the inauguration of the new wing of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, currently under construction.

De Vries told Daily Variety he hopes the job details will be finalized soon. “I hope to receive the final draft of the contract this week, before I head out to sit on the jury of the Juris Ivens Prize at the Intl. Dcumentary Filmfest Amsterdam,” De Vries said.

The change of reins is significant in Israel. The Van Leers set up the first film society in Israel in 1956, which later became the Haifa Cinematheque. The pair founded the Israel Film Archive in 1961. They established the Tel Aviv and Jerusalem cinematheques in the 1980s.

The Jerusalem Film Center — consisting of the archive, the Jerusalem Cinematheque and the fest — was founded in 1973.

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