Festival Programmers: Ilana Tsur of Docaviv

Now that Docaviv is over 10 years old, its programmer Ilana Tsur says it's really all about the quality of the films.
September 17, 2008

Docaviv: The Tel-Aviv International Documentary Film Festival
Ilana Tsur, artistic director and international programmer
Dates: May 7 to 16, 2009
Upcoming submission dates:
Late January 2009. (The fest’s website will be updated shortly. Submission questions can be sent to

What is the festival’s mandate:
When films pile, up I see there is a common thread and very often it’s about family relations, and conflicts in different countries. There are two kinds of programming: for the international competition, excellence is the only criteria; outside of the competition, we have all kinds of programs. Sometimes we focus on a country, sometimes it can be [a showcase of films] from a festival – it was IDFA once. That gives us a way to show classical films.

How can filmmakers make their submission stand out?
[What matters most] is the quality of the film. We don’t prefer one theme or another for the international program. Filmmakers should fill out the entry form and send a DVD. We don’t take an entry fee. It’s hard enough to make films and it’s unfair for filmmaker to have to pay. If festivals can’t afford it, they shouldn’t exist.

Standout film from most recent fest?
I was very happy that our opening night film My Beetle was chosen at Hot Docs and won an audience award, and it also screened at IDFA. It was by a new filmmaker; I like to encourage new them and not have them feel you have to be an old filmmaker to have an opening night film. The film had a few layers. On one hand you had a man transitioning from one life stage to another, as this filmmaker was moving from being single to a married man to a father and he was attached to his car more than his wife. I thought it was funny to watch his inner conflict between his wife and the car. And it’s rare to see a documentary where you laugh; usually you feel the sorrow of the world on your shoulders after seeing a doc. This one was lighthearted.

What’s been one of the most unexpected changes in the 10-year history of your fest?
The crowds that came for the most recent opening night overwhelmed me. It was held in the biggest hall that we have in Tel Aviv and the president came to give our opening speech, and I felt we had come a long way from 10 years ago. We still have a lot of things to do – we don’t have enough Israeli films being shown in primetime – but still, looking back it gives me great pleasure to see that Israeli films are being shown in film festivals around the world.

What’s your personal gauge of a successful festival?
The reaction of the public. I get a lot of comments and emails and I can feel it. It’s not a mathematical formula that [I gauge by], it’s something in the air. And the fact that every year we have more people coming and they aren’t buying one ticket, but five or ten, is a sign.

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