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Cooperation? In Jerusalem? It must be...by josh • November 18 2008
Art, Film, Music, News, Photography, Pop culture
I once drew a picture this big
Yes, it's the artists. In fact, Jerusalem does not want for lack of institutions that cater toward artists. Ever since Boris Schatz started sculpting old ladies and founded the Bezalel School of Art and Design, the city has been rife with galleries, academies, musicians, poets and starving artistes all dedicated to "the scene." Now, a new project is being formulated to turn that scene into more of a community of artistic minded Jerusalemites. Ruach Chadasha, a student rights organization founded by next mayor Nir Barkat, recently gathered together movers and shakers of the Jerusalem arts movement to lay the groundwork for the communities.
The meeting took place at Agripas 12, a gallery well known for fostering cooperation between the various artistic institutions in the city. Among the cognoscenti there were Avi Sabag of the Musrara school and members of the Zik, Koresh and Hagagit groups. Maya Felixbrodt, director of young artists for Ruach Chadasha said she had been approached by many others about working with them to create the community, which is meant to made up of those already out of school who want to remain in Jerusalem. "We mean to give them some framework to go and create together and to give to Jerusalem as artists," she said. The community is meant to be something completely open to the participants' choosing, meaning they or may not live together and create together and eat together and work together. Basically, it may be about as communal as a privatized "kibbutz."
Though Thursday night brought cold and rain over 20 interested artists crwoded into the gallery to hear what would be going on and get in on the ground floor. Felixbrodt said she wasn't sure what Barkat's victory would mean for the project, but hoped it would translate into more support from city hall, though she said the project would go ahead no matter what happens.
Of course, this effort is far from being the first to try and bring artists together to create in Jerusalem. Chutzot Hayotzer (the artists colony right outside the old city, not the related festival) touts itself as being one such place, though its fine arts showcases have more of a commercial tilt. The Jerusalem Artists House also brings artists together under one roof, though it is more a gallery than a community effort. Plus nobody even lives in the house. In September, Jerusalem was the home to Lift-Off, the first, possibly annual, installment of an event that sought to bring together over 100 artists to display their work in a number of venues throughout the city. And there's always artsy tchochkes and expensive Judaica available at Ben Yehuda and the Cardo. In short, art did not leave Jerusalem with the original Bezalel.
If you're interested in joining the movement, you can contact Ruach Chadasha. Or if war-torn, biblical tinged, or scary Tim Burtonesque art isn’t your cup of tea, you can always book it for one of the thousands of artists communities already up and running all over this big ol' artsy world.
Photo of the artsy summit courtesy of Ruach Chadasha.
A conversation with Laizy Shapira, Srugim directorby ben • September 14 2008
Laizy Shapira, 32, spent his childhood in Philadelphia, where his father served as a shaliach of the Jewish Agency. After moving back to Karnei Shomron, he served in a Hesder program for yeshiva studies combined with IDF service. Shapira graduated from Jerusalem's Ma'ale School of Television, Film and the Arts, the only communications production program in the country targeted towards observant Jews, when he was in his late 20s.
Professional doors began to open for Shapira in the years that followed, largely thanks to acclaim he received for two of his student projects, Eicha and Saving Private Finklestein, but he soon found himself struggling, with day jobs cleaning houses and giving tours at the Kotel Tunnels and at the Davidson Archeological Park. But an association with producer Yonatan Aroch eventually landed Shapira a deal to co-create, co-write (with long-time collaborator Chava Divon) and direct Srugim (literally, "knitted"), a surprise hit for Yes TV.
The show, which focuses on the lives of five central 30-something religious Jerusalemite bachelor and bachelorettes in a manner that is refreshing and clever, has taken Israeli pop culture by storm. When not attending screenings of episodes at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, Shapira is working on plans to hopefully export a translated version of the show to North America and to possibly air Season One on Israel's Channel 2 this winter – all while developing ideas for Season Two, which should air by the end of 2009.
It seems like Jerusalem is such a presence in the show that it's almost a character. How would you describe the city's special role in the series? Both me and Chava really love this city and wanted to show its beauty. People always say there's something different about Jerusalem – that it's so friendly and laid back. The holiness is part of it. Jerusalem has more simplicity, less pretension and a lot of beauty.
I'm glad we were able to shoot the first season in the winter, with the soft light on the stones. We were in The Valley of the Cross in November, and I saw the leaves changing colors, which I had never noticed really happening before, and the church was in the background. It was so different – like out of a European movie.
There's something very Jerusalemite about the sweaters and scarves - something about Jerusalem's character, even in the weather, that reflects in people's personae, all huddled up.
How did your experiences at Ma'ale bring you to where you are in your career now? Ma'ale was a good atmosphere for me to be in while I was there. It was very supportive.
There are two distinct religious dating scenes in Jerusalem: the sabras and the English speakers. Jerusalem is known as a hotbed for English-speaking immigrants, yet aside from the young woman who was willing to lend her tefillin in the first episode, there haven't been any English-speaking characters in the show. Was that a conscious decision? It was. I can't promise anything, but I really want to try to do it in the second season.
I think it's a format thing. We didn't want to confuse people. There are so many different [singles] scenes, within the German Colony, Nachlaot, etc., but we wanted to establish what we did with the characters first.
I didn't think the Anglos would identify with the show. It's kind of a different world. But they love it! I ended up at a shabbat meal with English speakers recently, and they were.... (click here for the full interview).
This week in Jerusalemby michael • September 04 2008
This week in Jerusalem, Art, Film, Things to do
All gussied up for My Sweet Husband and My Dear Wife
Welcome to September, kids. You can't wear white anymore, but you can make yourself feel better about the arbitrary sartorial cruelties of the approaching fall by reminding yourself that September is one of the best months to be in Jerusalem. The weather begins to ease off a little, and with both the Jewish High Holidays and the Muslim holy month of Ramadan taking place at the same time this year, the entire city takes on a buzz of impending celebration. So join in by taking in all Jerusalem has to offer this week:
Jerusalem of celluloidby michael • August 29 2008
Movie lovers cram together at the Jerusalem Film Festival
With the summer excitement of the Jerusalem Film Festival long past, movie fanatics in the city have to look elsewhere for their fix of cinematic magic - and the situation on the ground isn't always encouraging. Jerusalemites love movies (thus the perennial success of the Film Fest), but the number of decent venues in which to see them is on the wane. All of downtown's theaters have been long boarded up. The main first-run theaters, the Rav Chen out in Talpiot and the Globus Theater even further out in Malcha, are thinly-staffed, cramped, ill-equipped and magnets for the worst kind of cinema-goer. If it weren't for the sophisticated offerings of the Cinematheque and the left-field indie flicks screened at the Lev Smadar, local film buffs might just have to - perish the thought - descend to Tel Aviv for decent flicks on decent screens with decent sound.
Even the Jerusalem Post has taken note of the state of affairs, devoting a whole article to the local cinema scene:
Particularly harsh rhetoric is aimed at the Globus Theater in Malcha:
Israelis are notorious for their willingness to embrace mediocrity in certain areas, but there is hope for those who want to see big-name movies in civilized theaters. The Tel Aviv area has seen several American-style multiplexes open in recent years, and market forces being what they are, they'll inevitably migrate to Jerusalem and force out dinosaurs like Globus (although people will still leave their cell phones on). And in the meantime, the Cinematheque and the Smadar should keep you going.
Image courtesy of the Jerusalem Cinematheque.
This week in Jerusalemby michael • August 21 2008
This week in Jerusalem, Film, Food, For the kids, Sports, Things to do
Like Stomp, but Israeli: the Jerusalem Theatre's end of summer party
As the high holidays become visible on the horizon (they're closer than it seems), summer festival season continues in earnest in the city, with Jerusalemites trying to cram in as much freewheeling good times as possible before the rigor of days of rest and days of fasting. Weather aside, it's a good time to be out and about, because, as it so happens, there will be beer...
A conversation with Matthew Kalman, filmmakerby simone • August 03 2008
Interview, Film, Pop culture
Israeli humor is hot these days, and Matthew Kalman, co-director (with David Blumenfeld) of Circumcise Me, a comic documentary starring Yisrael Campbell, is at the forefront of this trend. The film, which traces the life of Campbell, a Catholic boy turned Jewish comedian, is currently doing the film festival circuit, and in the near future, the directors hope to hold weekly showings at Jerusalem's Lev Smadar Cinema, which hosted the film's Israeli premier on July 3.
Can I get a brief genesis on the history of this movie ands how you got involved? I'm a reporter, and David [Blumenfeld] is a photographer, and we've been working together here in Israel for the last 10 years. A few years ago, we started doing a lot of documentary work. It was all about suicide bombers, the intifada, guys with masks, and it got grueling after a while. One day, we'd just finished interviewing a 16-year-old who wanted to blow himself up but was caught at a checkpoint before he made it to his destination. We went to interview him in jail, and on the way back, David said to me, "We've got to do something fun, something for ourselves." That night, I went to the opening of the Off the Wall Comedy Empire. I heard Yisrael Campbell perform his act, and I said to myself, "We've got our subject."
How did your past experiences in journalism influence this project? How did you find the transition from print journalist to documentary filmmaker? The thing about print journalism is that you have very little control over what actually appears in print. You don't choose the headline; you don't make the final editing decisions. There are many times where I'll focus on one thing and something else entirely will appear in the published version. Here, with this documentary, we have complete control over what actually appears on the screen. So it's much more creative. But it's also a much greater responsibility. When I write for a paper, I get up, do my work and then come home and turn on Seinfeld and it's no longer my responsibility. Here, David and I are completely responsible for how Yisrael is perceived by the world.
Yisrael Campbell's comedy is a major selling point, but his back story is also key to what you did with the movie. What kind of balance between profile and concert document were you trying to strike? This was a really easy film to make, because Yisrael is really funny, he's really talented, he already has a show, so all we really had to do was film him. What we wanted to do with this project is take his show, which has been performed to numerous audiences here in Israel, and make it accessible to people elsewhere, and not just to Jewish audiences but to a wide range of people. We had to explain the contexts in Campbell's show and take out the parts that had too much Hebrew (which meant removing some of the funniest parts of the show). We also wanted to tell as much as possible of Campbell's back-story using very elementary documentary techniques. For example, Yisrael's father only has a few lines but they are all about very transitional points in Yisrael's life and they help move the story along.Finally, we want to show people who don't live here what this place is like, so we filmed Yisrael driving along the security wall and visiting the Hebrew University, so that people can visualize the places he refers to. At one point, you see him at the café where his friends were blown up. For me, that's the emotional.... (click here for the full interview).
This week in Jerusalemby michael • July 24 2008
This week in Jerusalem, Art, Film, For the kids, Photography, Things to do
The photography of Gustavo Sagorsky, now at the Jerusalem Artists House
Summer festival season has wound down, and the citywide High Holidays bashes are still a couple months off, but don't mistake this for the doldrums: even during the hottest days of a hot summer, Jerusalem and her many fine institutions continue to offer more culture than a Tel Avivi could shake an unearned sense of superiority at. Dig:
Image of Gustavo Sagorsky's photography courtesy of the Jerusalem Artists House.
A conversation with Ilan de-Vries, Jerusalem Film Festival directorby simone • July 16 2008
Interview, Film, Things to do
The Jerusalem International Film Festival is celebrating its 25th year under the auspices of a new general director, Ilan de-Vries, former deputy director under festival founder Lia Van Leer. Mr. de-Vries took time from his busy schedule to speak with Jerusalemite about the festival and Jerusalem's cultural scene.
Please give us some background on the festival. How did it begin and how has it developed since? The Festival began in 1982 as the brain-child of Lia Van Leer and Dina Eldor and backed by the Jerusalem Foundation, which was headed at that time by Teddy Kollek. The festival began with 50 films. It was very small. There were few guests and virtually no Israeli cinema, because there wasn't much Israeli cinema in general at that time. Since then, the Festival has grown each year, attracting more famous guests such as Jane Fonda, Roberto Benigni and Alan Arkin. In addition to films made in the past year or two, we began showing archive films as well and created a special category, "In the Spirit of Freedom," which features films dealing with issues of human rights, democracy and tolerance. There is a large prize, courtesy of the Nathan Cummings Foundation for this category.
This year we're celebrating our 25th anniversary. The festival has really grown in its 25 years. This year we have 100 films from over 30 countries, including films from some Arab countries including Jordan. We don't often get films from the Arab world because of the political situation.
How did you personally become involved in the Festival? When the Cinematheque opened in 1981, I served as Ms. Van Leer's deputy and was very involved with the Film Festival in its early years. After nine years at the Cinematheque I left to work at Channel 2 and then Mishkenot Sha'ananim before returning to the Film Festival this year.
Has your audience changed at all in the 25 years of festival operations? While the audience has changed to some degree, there is a core group of loyal viewers that come every year. These people continue to come from across the country because they see the best of cinema there and they like the festival's atmosphere. The Cinematheque currently has 7,000 members, and these members make up the core audience. Jerusalem of course has changed in the 25 years since the festival began. It no longer has the same demographic.... (click here for the full interview)
Moonlight Cinema at the Old Train Stationby michael • July 14 2008
Things to do, Film
It ain't easy being culturally active. You have to keep your ear to the ground. You have to stay abreast of events listings. You have to make difficult decisions: do you see a band, or a film? Wouldn't it be better, you've doubtless asked yourself, if you could see both at the same time (and perhaps not have to pay either)?
This week in Jerusalemby michael • July 10 2008
This week in Jerusalem, Art, Film, Food, For the kids, Things to do
Nothing improves a sculpture garden like the ol' coffin varnish
This week in Jerusalem? Well, it's like any other week in Jerusalem, save two major differences: the booze flows freer and the movies are less lowest-common-denominator. So pour out your 10-shekel Hebron Vineyards "wine" and spit symbolically in the direction of the cramped seats and terrible screens at the Rav Chen, because this week is all about the Jerusalem Wine Festival and the Jerusalem Film Festival.
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