Israeli films more popular abroad than at home: Director

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) Acclaimed Israeli director Eran Riklis says while films from his country are finally getting global recognition, they are not as popular back home. “Films that work internationally don’t work locally. Israel is a small place with six million people. We have five big film schools and we are an industry that has a lot of off-stream subjects to work on, but not everyone can succeed,” Riklis told IANS in an interview.

The director, who is in Delhi for the screening of his 2004 hit film “The Syrian Bride” and “Lemon Tree” (2008) at the ongoing 10th Osian-Cinefan Film Festival here, also said that the Israeli censor board is still strict with sex scenes.

“The only censorship in Israel is with sex, particularly to make the films age specific.”

Riklis has been making movies since 1975. His first film was “On A Clear Day You Can See Damascus”, which he made after he graduated from Beaconsfield National Film and Television School in Britain.

His “Cup Final” was hailed by critics internationally, followed by his tribute to rock and roll “Vulcano Junction” in 1999. The director also said that there are no private producers in the country who are ready to invest in movies.

“The basic money for films comes from the government. The Israeli foreign ministry sends our movies to different countries and the best thing that they have realised is sending films that could raise a debate,” the director said.

Riklis said Israeli films have carved a niche for themselves in the international cinema circuit because most of them are based on real life incidents and are a window to the country.

However popular these films may be, Riklis stresses that they are not competing with Hollywood at all.

“Israeli cinema is growing amazingly. We have a personal angle in our films and every film festival today has an Israeli film. But we are not competing with Hollywood. They make good films and they have a lot of money.

“We have the stories, the actors and technicians and if the directors stay smart, we can make essentially good films,” Riklis said.

Talking about the rise and fall of Israeli cinema, he said: “In the 1960s and 1970s, we had a huge industry. Then with the introduction of television, it went down. But in the past few years, the film industry has been picking up and growing internationally.

“Our cinema is neither off-stream nor mainstream. It is a kind of commercial offbeat cinema meant for a niche audience and that niche is growing.”

Riklis’ next venture is called “Mission of the Human Resource Manager” based on an Israeli novel by A.B. Yehoshua, about the voyage of a man.

Riklis’ “Lemon Tree” has been nominated in the Asian and Arab competition section at Osian’s. And does he expect it to win?

“Everyone hopes to win. It is not really about winning but about participating … just like in the Olympics.”

— By Robin Bansal


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