The sixth edition of The Israel Forum for International Documentary Co-productions (April 3 to 4) boasted the highest number of international delegates thus far. Despite worldwide advisories against travel to the region, nine ces made the trip to Tel Aviv.
It was worth the lengthy airport security checks. After the 22 projects were pitched, moderator Pat Ferns urged the CEs to reveal their top picks. The results were encouraging, with most pledging interest in upwards of three titles. Leena Pasanen of YLE Finland further noted, ‘I’ve already done three pre-buys and will probably do one more.’ Here’s a peek at the films that earned the most interest.
Adora (w/t) – Nava Mizrahi Productions, Jerusalem
Titled after the settlement near Hebron in which the story unfolds, this one-hour doc focuses on two families: the Amars, whose sons are accused of selling ammunition to Palestinian terrorists, and the Shefis, whose five-year-old daughter was shot by Palestinian terrorists. Living as neighbors, it’s the mothers – Shiri Shefi and Jacquelyn Amar – who steer the narrative, offering an intimate look at the complexities of settler life and the disintegration of a community.
Marie Natanson, deputy director of the independent doc unit at Canada’s CBC was impressed with the emotional intensity captured in the pitch clip. Philippe Van Meerbeeck, program manager at Brussels-based pubcaster VRT, claimed Adora one of the strongest pitches of the event, and Nick Fraser, CE of the BBC’s ‘Storyville’ strand, noted that the scenario read like a plot from the popular British soap EastEnders. ‘If it’s about the characters, I would like to see the film as it progresses,’ he added. Israel’s Channel 8 is on board for †40,000 (US$47,000) of the †125,000 budget.
Oligarchs (w/t) – Alma Films, Tel Aviv
Most of the CEs were puzzled over why the Oligarchs granted director Alexander Gentelev and producer Arik Bernstein unfettered access to their lives, yet all were keen to join the project provided it took on epic proportions.
With a proposed budget of †450,000 ($530,000), this 3 x 1-hour series will put modern-day Russia in perspective by looking at the secret activities of seven men who alternately stand accused of ‘stealing’ the country and staving off a return to communist rule. Known as the Oligarchs, the men – all ‘bankers’ – manipulated their way into Russia’s political inner circle during Glasnost. They’re credited with Yeltsin’s reelection in 1996 and suspected of anointing Putin. Powerful men with powerful enemies, they continue to shape Russian society, but are fighting their own downfall.
YLE’s Pasanen, TVO’s creative head of network programming, Rudy Buttignol and the bbc’s Fraser all pledged interest in the project. ‘The BBC has been trying to do this for years,’ said Fraser. ‘You need to explain how it happened, but leave out the nitty gritty and do it tabloid.’ Mette Hoffmann Meyer, CE of docs and factual and head of sales and coproductions for TV2 Denmark, was concerned about adequately explaining how the Oligarchs maneuvered power, and Bert Janssens, head of programming at pubcaster affiliate Humanistische Omroep in The Netherlands, noted that the Oligarchs’ fall would also need to be shown.
Toronto’s Associated Producers is coproducing, and Channel 10 in Israel has invested †100,000 ($118,000).
True Kindness (w/t) – TTV Productions, Tel Aviv
This †166,000 ($195,000) doc had the cbc’s Natanson and TVO’s Buttignol pledging to battle for the Canadian rights.
The one-hour doc follows three ultra orthodox Jews who are also members of ZAKA, a volunteer organization formed in 1995 that has become expert in identifying the victims of terror attacks and disasters. The men’s religious community, located in central Jerusalem, views most of modern life as taboo, but their activities in ZAKA have them riding motorcycles and wearing beepers. The film will show how the horrors these men witness and the duty they perform collides with what they practice and believe – not only for themselves, but for the community they live in.
Christoph Jörg, a CE of specialist factual at arte, noted that France’s Canal+ and the UK’s Channel 4 had attempted films on ZAKA, and recommended TTV approach both outlets for support. Natanson received confirmation that the doc will feature rabbis who disagree with the protagonists’ participation in ZAKA.
Three other films also created buzz.
The Champagne Spy, a one-hour doc from Tel Aviv-based Nadav Schirman, charts the James Bond-esque rise and fall of Wolfgang Lotz, an Israeli spy who posed as a German millionaire in Cairo in the 1960s. Both Jörg and Pasanen asked to see the script for the †133,000 ($157,000) film, about 70% of which will be archive.
Little Piece of Mine and Pickles both explore difficult topics through more digestible events. The first, a †179,000 ($212,000) one-hour single from Tel Aviv-based Eden Productions, focuses on 12-year-old Nadav’s efforts to stem the violence in Israel by forming Peace for the Future, a movement exclusive to kids. The second, a one-hour doc carrying a †90,000 ($105,000) budget, sees Tel Aviv’s Gon Productions turn its lens on eight Arab widows who’ve opened a pickle factory in their Muslim village near Galilee. Arte deputy program director Hans Robert Eisenhauer encouraged the filmmakers to complete the project, and TV2′s Hoffmann Meyer invited the producers to send her their rushes.