I need to do this because I am a newcomer to this ancient land where I was born yet left before learning it on the ground. Since connecting with my roots in this Levantine world where status quo and existence itself are never assumed, viewing documentaries has become a fast path to learning about my fellow Israelis.
So many movies. Through the wide lens of Israel's local documentary film repertory, I encounter myriad ideas, issues, projects, and people. So, I wend my way to the Tel Aviv Cinemateque Library.
Such an exquisite Library. I check my backpack outside the door, and enter the largest information center in Israel on Israeli and international film. Library assets include films (on videos and DVD), international and Israeli film journals and Hebrew language newspaper clippings, books, posters, and photos from publicists in Hollywood and Europe. Soon, the window on my viewer will open to cultures, traditions, conflicts, and dialogs revealing the mosaic of Israeli society.
Tel Aviv Cinemateque Librarian, Dror Yizhar, helps me to choose a film. Next, I pay the symbolic fee my Tel Aviv Cinemateque membership requires per Library viewing session — about $1.50, or 5 NIS [New Israeli Shekels], and settle into a private carrel equipped with a monitor, playback equipment, and earphones. Sitting among fellow Israelis and others for whom movie-viewing is clearly a serious pursuit and source of pleasure, I share the treasures with high school students, college and university grads, people looking for a thesis or dissertation topic, movie lovers, professors, lecturers — everyone. “You name it. If they're interested in movies, they're welcome,” quips Yizhar.
In this Library, I have —
- Watched works from a canon of masterpieces (Preliminaries / Mikdamot) to edgy new works (Hot House / Habithonim)
- Witnessed the little known dramas of Israel’s Vietnamese refugee community (The Journey of Vaan Nguyen / Hamasah shel Vann) and of a group of transsexual Filipino guest workers (Paper Dolls / Bubot Niyar)
- Listened to poetic voices of writers and educators on social and ethnic dilemmas of Israelis (Ethiopian immigrants — Eshbal, Russian immigrants — Odessa... Odessa!, Israeli Arabs — Shadya, Circassians — The Golden Cage / Kluv shel zahav, among others)
- Peered into the sometimes subtle, always profound complexities that war (Harmed Forces / Kohotenu lo shavu) and displacement (Hirbet Hiza) inflicts on individuals (Number 17 Anonymous / Haharug ha-17) and communities (5 Days /chamisha yamim).
About the Tel Aviv Cinemateque. Since 1973, the Tel Aviv Cinemateque has been this White City's (and beyond) address for viewing films of different genres. Classical works of the finest directors, contemporary mainstream artistic Israeli and international options, and a selection of experimental and avant-garde pieces, independent works, retrospectives, and premieres feed patrons’ tastes and fancies. Almost every month and season, offerings include festivals on special themes or countries and in different fields (for instance, animation), workshops, courses, and major events (DocAviv — the Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival, among the most highly sought-after and respected film festivals in the world— in March; Israeli Academy Awards in late summer; and a student film festival, as examples).
The Cinemateque is involved in social and political questions of Israeli society, and has screened films shunned by official or social censorship, especially concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, foreign workers, and trafficking in sex. Sometimes, panels of artists, writers, journalists, actors, and others discuss films just viewed. Among cultural events happening inside or outside on the entrance square are comics festivals and political and social rallies. An optional membership allows free or deeply discounted admission to events.
Street: Sprinzak 2 (corner of HaArba'a)
Phone: 03. 606. 0800
www.cinema.co.il/ (Hebrew only)