It’s a host’s biggest nightmare: What if you throw a party and nobody comes? This is a dilemma organizers of the Israel Forum for International Documentary Co-productions and DocAviv have faced more than once, located as they are in a perennially troubled region. But this year, even with a nearby war threatening to spill over to Israel, events went on as scheduled.
DocAviv, the Tel-Aviv International Documentary Festival (April 2 to 7), reported that about 20,000 attended the event, a 30% increase over last year. Many overseas guests did not make the trip, but those who did included American Gordon Quinn (producer of Steve James’s doc Stevie) and Belgian Thierry Michel, whose film Iran: Veiled Appearances garnered an honorable mention in the international competition.
At the forum (April 2 to 3), 26 local filmmakers pitched projects to an international panel. According to David Fisher, general director of Tel-Aviv-based New Foundation for Cinema & Television, ‘The feeling was there weren’t many chances to get a pre-sale.’ Potential buyers included commissioning editors from European channel ARTE and Brussels, Belgium-based VRT, but Fisher lamented the absence of the BBC and German channels, which have attended in previous years.
Rudy Buttignol, creative head of docs, drama and network at Canadian pubcaster TV Ontario, was in Tel Aviv for the fourth time. He says, ‘[Most] pitches were about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Obviously, for a lot of people, coming to grips with it is key in their lives. But for the international market, how many films of that conflict can one acquire in any single year?’
Fewer forum attendees made for a ‘more intimate welcome’, as one DocAviv organizer put it. ‘The breadth might not be there, but the depth is,’ concludes Buttignol.