“The Hebrews” – events at the VLJI
In recent years, the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute has turned to documentary filmmaking as another medium through which to impact intellectual life in Israel. During 2019-2020 several events were held at the VLJI surrounding the films from the documentary film series: The Hebrews (Ha'Ivrim). The events were the product of cooperation between the VLJI and Yair Qedar, a documentary film director and producer who created The Hebrews project: a production laboratory of biographical documentary films about prominent writers in Jewish and Hebrew culture. As part of the cooperation, we held a workshop for researchers and artists – writers and filmmakers – about the future of the project, as well as a series of screenings and discussions to mark The Hebrews tenth anniversary.
Two years ago, after a new season of The Hebrews came out, including films about Rabbi Shalom Shabazi, Abraham Sutzkever, Jacqueline Kahanoff, David Vogel, Avoth Yeshurun and Miriam Yalan-Shteklis, I found myself at a crossroads. After 14 films, fantastic reception, massive engagement in Jewish and Israeli literature and its translation to the medium of television, through joint creation processes with animators, illustrators, musicians, editors, and photographers – I asked myself where this initiative should go next. The VLJI allowed me to contemplate these questions, and along with its staff, including Prof. Shai Lavi, Dr. Yochi Fischer, and Ronna Brayer-Garb, we began a process of examination. The purpose of the process was to take a closer look at what I do, what I think I do, the concept of the project itself and its objectives, and to try to shed new light on the initiative’s future potential. First we created a series of screenings accompanied by symposia, which opened the way to new thinking about the films that had already been made. Secondly, a small and focused thinking laboratory was created, which invited a range of intellectuals from various areas of Israeli thought and creativity, and within a few hours The Hebrews project, as I knew it, was reconceptualized, picked apart, beaten up, dissolved, crushed, reflected upon, reassembled, and opened to future possibilities that had been lying beyond my horizon. Documentary filmmaking is a multi-year enterprise. The production of a documentary film can last three years or more. The Hebrews was even slower to cook, but the inspiration I received from the VLJI in the two parallel productive processes will stay with the project and with me for many years to come.
Many of the films from The Hebrews project are available for viewing online. We invite you to watch the discussions held (in Hebrew) at the VLJI following the films, in these links:
Discussion following the film: Black Honey: The Poetry and Life of Avraham Sutzkever
With the participation of: Dr. Karin Neuburger-Tuito, Prof. Avraham Novershtern, Dr. Zehavit Stern
Discussion following the film: Jacqueline Kahanoff, a Levantine Woman
With the participation of: Eness Elias, prof. Henriette Dahan Kalev, Rafael Balulu, Dr. Tsameret Levy-Daphny
Discussion following the film: Bialik, King of the Jews
With the participation of: Dr. Hamutal Tsamir, Dr. Tzahi Weiss, Dr. Rani Yeger, Tafat Hacohen Bick
Discussion following the film: Zelda: A Simple Woman
With the participation of: Tafat Hacohen Bick, Dr. Yael Shenker, Eliaz Cohen
Published: 28 October, 2020
Written by: Ronna Brayer-Garb