At the Israel Market for International Co-Productions with ITVS Vice President of Programming Claire Aguilar

Posted on May 29, 2009

The 11th Israel Market for International Co-Productions recently concluded. Held in Tel Aviv, the event aims to foster dialogue between Israeli filmmakers and foreign counterparts, offer international audiences new and interesting insight, promote and nurture young talented Israeli Arab and Jewish filmmakers and raise funds for Israeli-foreign co-productions. Read about ITVS Vice President of Programming Claire Aguilar’s experience at this year's Co-Pro.

I just participated in the 11th Israel Co-Production Forum in Tel Aviv. It was my fourth time at the Co-Pro and in Israel, and as always it was an inspiring and invigorating experience. This was a special year for ITVS, where we were honored with a special tribute for films that we produced with Israeli producers as well as films presented by ITVS International through co-productions or acquisition. The tribute to ITVS opened with the film BE LIKE OTHERS, by Tanaz Eshaghian and Peter Wintonick, which explores transsexual counterculture in Iran. This unprecedented film explores the re-assignment of gender in a Muslim country, where sex-sex operations offer a cure for “diagnosed transsexuals.” In Israel, there obviously is interest in Iran on all levels, and this film offered insight into an intimate part of the culture. Nine other films were featured in the ITVS tribute including ON THE BORDERS OF DESPERATION, STORM OF EMOTIONS, YOUNG YAKUZA, PICKLES, INC. and UNMISTAKEN CHILD. These films will tour in cinematheques across Israel.

The tribute to ITVS was a great kick-off for the Co-Production Forum, which presented its 11th edition of 27 co-productions from Israeli producers in the development and production stage. This is one of the finest co-production forums in existence, helmed with insight and dedication by Orna Yarmut and her talented team, and superbly moderated by Pat Ferns, the father of the documentary public pitch, which he launched 35 years ago at the Banff Film Festival. The Co-Pro assembles the projects and their producers and presents them to a 15-member panel of commissioning editors and broadcasters from all over the world, including Jean Pelletier (CBC-Télévision Radio-Canada), DRTV (Denmark), Iikka Vehkalahti (YLE, Finland), Alax Szalat and Marianne Lévy-Leblond (Arte France), Nick Fraser (BBC Storyville), Hans-Robert Eisenhauer (ZDF/Arte, Germany), Mette Hoffman-Meyer (DR, Denmark) and many others. 

Each year the projects pitched are informative and thought-provoking, offering a range of points of view of many subjects, and not only about the Middle East conflict. In the past 15 years, Israel has produced a striking number of excellent documentary producers including Yulie Cohen (My Terrorist), Yoav Shamir (Checkpoint) and Ari Folman (WALTZ WITH BASHIR). Ari Folman’s project WALTZ WITH BASHIR was one of the first Israeli projects that I commissioned through ITVS International during my first visit to Israel. Simply based on an innovative idea and a single animated scene and aptly pitched from Folman, who had limited documentary experience, it was clear that this film would be original and historic. This Co-Pro contained veteran and new producers, and covered subjects as diverse as: a look at Dead Sea as it dries up and collapses; a Polish priest who discovers that he is actually born to Jewish parents and decides to return to Israel; sales agents peddling weapons and technologies for urban warfare; multicultural and multi-religious 8-years olds in a classroom in Tel Aviv, Russian neo-Nazis and their dreams of ethnic cleansing. 

In two days I heard a wide and dizzying array of subjects, approaches, filmmaking styles and sometimes personal confessions! After the seven-minute verbal pitch for each presentation, we watched video samples and gave critiques and feedback, and sometimes there was a pre-buy commitment from a broadcaster. The Co-Pro also organized a German delegation pitching to Israeli broadcasters, and presented a sampling of 360 multi-platform projects that were included in our mix of creative documentaries and social issues. An enriching experience, and hopefully we can return with more great projects from this country and creative talent pool. "Toda raba" to Dror Moreh for his saavy technical assistance (card reader)... 

- Claire ITVS Vice President of Programming


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