Locarno: 10 Power Players of Israel’s Film Industry

Through its top-notch film schools and pair of movies boards, Israel Film Fund and Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation, Israel has bred a diverse generation of filmmakers and producers who have gained international recognition through selections at key festivals, from Cannes to Venice, Berlin and Locarno.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of Israel film industry’s 10 power-players and directors you should know:

Katriel Schory, executive director of the Israel Film Fund

Schory, an NYU grad and former producer, has been exec director of Israel Film Fund for 17 years and has so far participated in financing 230 movies, such as “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem,” “Waltz With Bashir” and “Lebanon.” Schory is one of the film world’s most respected figures and is perceived by many Jewish and Arab filmmakers in Israel as a gatekeeper of freedom of expression. Throughout his mandate, Schory has managed to get the Cinema Law passed in 2011, which ensures the independence of film funds, and he has managed to get 13 international coproduction treaties signed.

Giora Einy, general director of Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts

Einy runs The Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts, which is the country’s leading source of film financing along with the Israel Film Fund. The Foundation was created 1988 to support movies that have “depth and relevance (…) and bring about a genuine pluralistic debate on the problems of Israeli identity and heritage, as well as current topics.” The latest movies backed by the Foundation include Natalie Portman’s directorial debut “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” Nadav Lapid’s sophomore outing “The Kindergarten Teacher” and Avishai Sivan’s “Tikkun” which won top prizes at Jerusalem and is competing at Locarno.

Renen Schorr, director of Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film and Television School

Like Katriel Schory, Schorr is a prominent industry figure who stands out as a driving force behind Israeli films’ coming of age and rising status at home and abroad. Schorr runs the Sam Spiegel film and TV school, which counts Israel’s most successful directors as alumni. Created in 1989, the Sam Spiegel school has reportedly been celebrated with 160 tributes and retrospectives, notably at the MOMA and Berlin film fest. Overall, Sam Spiegel students have swept 300 prizes at international festivals. Schorr also co-founded the Sam Spiegel Film Lab, a residency program hosted as part of Jerusalem film festival which notably allowed Lazlo Nemes to develop the script for his Cannes Grand Prize winning “Son of Saul.”

Nadav Lapid, writer/director

Lapid, a Tel Aviv-born director who grew up in a family of artists and graduated from the Sam Spiegel film school, has made a name for himself with “The Policeman” and “The Kindergarten Teacher,” two singular, poetic and political movies that explore the contradictions within contempo Israeli society. Lapid participated in Cannes’ Cinefondation with his debut “The Policeman” in 2012, which earned him Locarno’s jury prize. Lapid followed up with “The Kindergarten Teacher” which world premiered at Cannes’ Critics’ Week and was recently released by Kino Lorber in the U.S. where it has garnered strong reviews. Lapid is now preparing his third film which will be set in Paris with influential French producer Anne-Dominique Toussaint’s Les Film des Tournelles on board. Lapid is in Locarno to participate in the international jury.

Avishai Sivan, writer/director

An artist, author and filmmaker, Sivan broke through in Israel with the seven-part doc “Soap Opera of a Frozen Filmmaker.” Sivan made his feature debut with Directors’ Fortnight player “The Wanderer,” a drama following a young Yeshiva student trapped in a dysfunctional family. His third feature, “Tikkun,” which is competing at Locarno, has just clinched four awards at Jerusalem film festival, including best film and screenplay for Sivan, cinematography for Shai Goldman and actor for Khalifa Natour. Picking up on some of the themes explored in “The Wanderer,” “Tikkun” is a black-and-white drama turning on an ultra-Orthodox man who brings his son back to life after an accident and becomes haunted by the idea that he acted against God’s will. “Tikkun” (pictured above) is produced by Plan B Productions, The Mouth Agape and United King Films.

Michale Boganim, writer/director

Born in Haifa, Boganim graduated from National Film School of London. The young director scored with her student film, “Dim Memories,” which played at Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight. Her directorial debut, “Odessa, Odessa,” a docu feature about the wanderings of Jews from Odessa to New York and Israel, competed at Sundance and at Berlin where it won the CICAE award. She followed up with “Land of Oblivion,” a romance-laced drama set against the backdrop of the Tchernobyl disaster that world premiered at Venice and played at Toronto. Boganim is currently developing her English-language debut, a Manhattan-set drama delving on the theme of conflicting cultural/religious identity, produced by France’s Michel Propper and Israel’s David Mandil.

Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz, writers/directors/actors

Shlomi and Ronit Elkabetz, The brother-sister pair behind the critically-aclaimed trilogy “To Take a Wife,” which won two nods at Venice in 2004, “Seven days” and “Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem” which opened at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight and earned a Golden Globe nom. “Gett” has an resounding impact: After stirring heated debates over divorce laws in Israel, the movie was even screened for the Rabbinic court. The pair is re-teaming with their French producer Elzevir France on their next project which they are currently writing. Ronit, who stars in all three films, ranks among Israel’s most respected actresses with credits including “The Girl on the Train” and “The Band’s Visit.” Aside from their joint project, Shlomi is producing Maysaloun Hamoud’s debut feature, “In Between,” a dramedy turning on two emancipated Palestinian young women living in Tel Aviv. Presented as part of Jerusalem’s Pitch Point, “In Between” has been selected by the Israel Film Fund to receive funding.

Samuel Maoz, writer/director

Maoz striked a chord with his feature debut, “Lebanon,” a drama based of the director’s own experience as gunner in one of the first Israeli tanks to enter Lebanon in the 1982 war. The movie world premiered at Venice in 2009 and went to win the Golden Lion. Maoz is now preparing his anticipated sophomore outing, “Foxtrot” with France’s A.S.A.P., Germany’s Pandora Film and Israel’s Spiro Films producing. Like “Lebanon,” “Foxtrot” will be a personal movie inspired by Maoz’s experience as a soldier, through a tragic yet universal story of grief.

David Mandil, producer, Movie Plus

Mandil, one of Israel’s most influential and best-connected producers, has made over 20 films, including Joseph Cedar’s Oscar-nominated “Beaufort” and “Footnote” as well as Natalie Portman’s directorial debut “A Tale of Love and Darkness” which played at Cannes in the special screening section. Mandil now has Cedar’s “Oppenheimer Strategies” with Richard Gere, Lior Ashkenazi and Michael Sheen in post. Mandil’s upcoming projects include Boganim’s New-York-set film which he’s co-producing.

Amir Harel, producer, Lama Films

Harel is one of Israel’s bravest and most politically-engaged producers. Through his Tel Aviv-based shingle Lama Films, Harel has produced Shira Geffen and Etgar Keret’s “Jellyfish” which premiered at Cannes’ Critics Week and won three nods, Hany Abu-Assad’s Oscar-nominated, Golden-Globe-nominated “Paradise Now” and exec produced Riad Doueiri’s “The Attack.” Harel is now developing Gigi Dar’s “Legend of Destruction,” a 2D hybrid animated feature in the artistic vein of “Waltz with Bashir” depicting the Jewish revolt during the Roman Empire 70 B.C. that led to the destruction of the second temple. Harel just won the top prize at Jerusalem film festival’s Sam Spiegel lab with Itamar Alcalay’s feature debut “Darkroom.” The project turns of an Armenian youth brought up in conservative family in Tel Aviv who embarks on an illicit affair with another boy.

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