“We believe Israeli cinema has much more to offer to the world, and that co-productions and collaboration are the best way to enable this"

Israel was one of the countries in focus during the last When East Meets West, where we had a chance to talk to Yoav Abramovich, joint director general of the Israel Cinema Project by the Rabinovich Foundation, to discover more about the role of the fund in Israeli cinema, the importance of co-productions for the local industry, and the significance of collaborations between Israel and Europe.

Cineuropa: Could you explain what the role of your fund is in producing and supporting Israeli cinema?
Yoav Abramovich:
 The Israel Cinema Project, by the Rabinovich Foundation, is Israel’s largest film fund. It is both independently funded and also receives support from the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport. We support Israeli cinema in three different formats: feature-length fiction films, documentaries and student graduation films. As expected, we are one of the first organisations that an Israeli filmmaker will approach with an idea for a film. A good example of our work could be Nadav Lapid: we had already supported his first two features – Policeman and The Kindergarten Teacher  when he approached us with the first draft of Synonyms , the winner of the 2019 Berlinale Golden Bear for Best Film. The project initially received our script-development support and, later, a production grant as a French-Israeli-German co-production.

Perhaps it is not widely known, but your fund is not the only one operating in Israel. Could you offer us a better overview of this particular characteristic of your financing system?
The Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport supports five separate national film funds – the Israel Cinema Project by the Rabinovich Foundation, the Israel Film Fund, the Gesher Multicultural Film Fund, the New Fund for Cinema and Television, and the Makor Foundation for Film and Television – along with a few other smaller regional film funds for local support. Of all these funds, only the first two are dedicated mostly or solely to the support of feature-length films. We do not collaborate on film funding, but we do cooperate on general projects for the advancement of Israeli films. It is a complex system, but I believe it is a very good one because it promotes competition between the funds to support the best possible Israeli films. Apart from that, another advantage of having a few competing funds is that local filmmakers have diverse options for financing. If they feel that one fund is not receptive to their ideas or vision, for any reason whatsoever, they can always try another fund.

the film crews here are top-notch professionals, and have lots of experience of working with both European and American productions

In most cases, Israeli films are co-produced with European countries; what are you looking for in these co-productions, and how easy is it to get them off the ground?
Israel has more than 20 co-production treaties with European countries. Israeli film funds are very receptive to co-productions and are very experienced in supporting them. We try hard to make them as easy as possible, simply because they work, and I don’t mean that only in terms of the technical or financial aspects. Also, from an artistic and cultural perspective, these co-productions frequently make a sum that is more than the total of all of the different parts. We don’t look for specific subjects or ideas in them; they just need to comply with the relevant regulations of each treaty, and to be excellent films by promising filmmakers. That is all.

Do you also believe that Israel is an attractive destination for a production? What are the advantages and the added value that you offer in the region?
First of all, the film crews here are top-notch professionals, and have lots of experience of working with both European and American productions. Apart from the crews, Israel is unique, as it has very diverse climates and location types in a very small country. From desert to snowy mountains and the seaside, from modern cities to traditional stone villages, everything is within a few hours’ drive. It’s worth noting that regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Israel, with almost half of its population vaccinated, is currently the best-performing country worldwide. So, if an international film production is aiming to start shooting in a couple of months, there is a good chance that Israel will be completely open by then.

Regarding local productions, what are your future plans in terms of exporting them to the rest of the world?
One of our major goals in recent years has been to expand our presence abroad, for the international advancement of Israeli cinema. For example, we host international panels at the Israeli Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival, aiming to promote Israeli cinema and facilitate Israeli-European collaborations, talking to European funds, film institutes, producers and other decision makers. Also, our presence at When East Meets West, as one of the countries in focus, came as a result of our recent general tightening of relations with the Italian film industry. We believe that Israeli cinema has much more to offer to the world in general, and to Europe specifically, and that co-productions and collaboration are the best way to enable this.

published on cineuropa
interview by Vassilis Economou