You may not have noticed the fifteen filmmakers working at break-neck pace to create a documentary film in only 5 days, but you will be able to see the results next Thursday, May 14th at 20:30 at the Tel Aviv Port. Director/producer Ari Davidovich has brought Doc-Challenge to Israel for the first time this year as part of the DocAviv Festival at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. The competition, (similar in structure to the US version) requires filmmakers to create, shoot and edit a documentary film within 5 days.
Davidovich explains that the process of making a documentary can often take so long that it becomes tedious. Setting a time limit can introduce a new dynamic and energy into this process, in some sense freeing the filmmaker to create in a different way. 15 groups were selected from 80 applicants to participate in this year’s competition. The general topic, in honor of Tel Aviv’s centennial, is the city itself.
To make the process a bit more challenging, and ensure that no one gets a head start on making their documentary, participants gathered on the first day – Monday, May 4th, to receive more specific instructions. They were informed that each film must also relate to the theme of “Hiding” (the Hebrew word “machbo’im” can refer to hiding places or to the children’s game of “hide and seek”). The theme may be interpreted freely, but must be included in the film in some manner. An additional constraint imposed on the participants was that of genre. A lottery was held in which each group selected a combination of two genres. Some of the combinations selected were: sports/historical, socio-political/musical, and first person/experimental.
Several days into the process, I spoke to Avi Weissblei, whose group “Ha’Amoraim (Talmudic scholars) had just finished shooting and were about to begin editing. Their film focuses on Leah Axelrod, widow of Nathan Axelrod of Carmel Newsreels. Weissblei, who is directing, explained “We wanted to look at Tel Aviv from the perspective of someone who has observed this city over time. She and her husband made newsreels for the cinema – the Carmel newsreels. The last one was made in 1969. She is now 96 years old and she has not made a newsreel in 40 years.”
Working with photographer Rotem Yaron (who also worked with him on the script), film editor Tamir Avidor and Yahalom Alima who is producing, the group name reflects their personal history in Tel Aviv as it refers to Amoraim Street in Ramat Aviv where they shared an apartment. Weissblei likes to look for the stories that are often overlooked, saying, “There are interesting things right in front of us and we don’t approach them. If it doesn’t deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or celebrities…[the topic is ignored]. I like topics that deal with the past, history, individuals.” Time constraints apparently work well for Weissblei whose film “An Old Scam” won first place in last year’s “48 Hour Film Project.”
The Israeli competition differs from the US version in one crucial dimension – funding. While the American competitors had to finance their films on their own, the Israeli competition provides support for the filmmakers. The completed documentaries will be screened at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque, The Third Ear, yesdoco channel and www.yes.walla.co.il.