KIPOD – A Home for Israeli Cinema

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The world has its eyes on Israeli film: on a recent trip to Paris, Israeli filmmaker Uri Bar-On (King Lahti the First 2008; A Different Love Song [short] 2005; 72 Virgins [short] 2003) noticed that there were 7 Israeli films showing in theatres. Yet back home in Israel, only 3 Israeli films were showing in theatres. Uri Bar-On and Kipod – a home for Israeli Cinema, would like to change all that.

Believing that Israeli films deserve a chance to connect to a wider audience, Kipod aims to create a home for Israeli cinema in Tel Aviv, with a dedicated venue that will screen Israeli films, and provide a meeting place for filmmakers and film aficionados alike. The project team includes, in addition to Bar-On, cinematographer Daniel Kedem (Life in Stills 2011, The Garden of Eden 2012); director/screenwriter Yanai Goz (Allenby Romance 2005, Yoter Iti Mi’Lev 2012); producer/director Shalom Goodman (Dancing in Jaffa [post production] 2012); director/producer Yonatan Dubek; and editor/director Noit Geva (Noise 2012).

Despite their growing popularity, Israeli films still have a hard time competing with the demands of commercial theatres, hesitant to risk even a two week run if they are not certain of the box office returns. “There are a lot of films out there,” said Bar-On, “about 30 features, 80 documentaries, and 200 shorts are made each year…we aim to be a non-commercial venue with a different vibe.” The plan is attractively simple: Kipod would show new Israeli films during the week, and hold themed weekend festivals showcasing the work of a filmmaker, era, or genre. New Israeli films screened at Kipod would be shown once a week (at the same day and time) for a period of ten weeks, giving filmmakers “a sense of home and peace of mind, and give films a chance to be seen and generate a conversation.”

Kipod is designed to be a non-profit organization with profits from ticket sales going to filmmakers. The business plan was developed in the context of the Social Lab at Mazeh 9, a center sponsored by the Tel Aviv –Yafo Municipality. Bar-On credits the program and mentors along the way – Michael Volla, Assaf Zamir, Guy Mor and David Zigdon, for helping the group learn what it takes to turn a creative idea into a realistic business plan.

Beyond showing Israeli films, the center seeks to respond to the needs of filmmakers in Israel and a new generation of viewers who seek a different kind of experience. Given that everyone can watch movies anytime, anywhere, on their laptop or phone, the social aspect of watching a film in the theatre is more important than ever. Rather than seat audiences in anonymous, crowded rows, Kipod would like to design a more friendly viewing experience, sitting on comfortable couches and cushions, beer in hand – something more like home.

“You don’t just sit down, watch a movie and leave,” said Bar-On, who envisions an active social center where people can connect and talk about films. Screenings will often be accompanied by discussions with directors, editors and cinematographers, giving the audience a chance to ask questions and learn about the artistic choices and vision involved in creating the film.

For filmmakers, Kipod aims to offer a sense of community. “People graduate and they don’t have any place that can be a home,” said Bar-On, “a place to sit and write, a resource for putting together a film crew, colleagues with whom to share ideas and versions of scripts, a place to meet… a place to sit quietly with your laptop.” Just as crucial, Bar-On would like Kipod to be “a place for creative and business networking for people who don’t have a formal framework.”

Casual observation of the Tel Aviv café scene gives the impression that everyone is talking to everyone all the time, and the proliferation of alternative venues (Kolnoa Beit Ha’am – The People’s Cinema; Hayarkon 70; The Zimmer and others) suggests that the city does not lack for opportunities to see films and connect to people in the film industry, raising the question whether a project like Kipod might be more essential to locations farther from the urban center. Bar-On explained that in order to be effective, Kipod needs to be where the filmmakers are – and that is Tel Aviv and its environs: “the center of Israeli filmmaking is in Tel Aviv, it is a response to a need and the best utilization of potential. If you look at the directories of the professional unions, 80% of filmmakers live in Tel Aviv.” If successful, perhaps Kipod could branch out, creating similar centers in other parts of the country.

Talking about Kipod with Uri Bar-On, the group’s vision is so detailed and well-articulated, that it feels as through the dream is already a reality. In fact, Bar-On said that he has received inquiries asking for the venue’s address. Yet that is burning question: Kipod is currently in search of a venue and funding to get the place up and running. If you would like to become involved, or are interested in more information, consult the Kipod website, facebook page, or write to: kankolnoa@gmail.com.