In the Hebrew language, letters translate into numbers. The number 32 is made of two letters: ‘L’-the Hebrew letter ‘Lamed,’ stands for the number 30 and ‘B’-the Hebrew letter ‘Beit,’ stands for the number 2. Together these two letters make up the word ‘LEV’ which means heart in the Hebrew language. Thirty two years of heart were invested into the Israel Film Festival (IFF), celebrating this year its 32nd birthday.
The man who put his heart into this over three decades’ project is Meir Fenigstein, the Executive Director and Founder of Israel Film Festival.
In a luncheon that took place in the Four Seasons Hotel, Los Angeles, with Sunda Croonquist, emcee, in which Larry Tanz, Vice President, Global Television – Netflix, was awarded the 2018 IFF Achievement in Television Award; Ram Bergman, Producer of ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi‘ was awarded the 2018 IFF Achievement in Film Award and Stanley Black, philanthropist and Founder and Partner of Black Equities Group, was awarded the 2018 IFF Humanitarian Award, the 32nd Israel Film Festival that will take place during November 6th-to-20th, 2018, in Los Angeles, California, was launched in conjunction with celebrating Israel’s 70th Anniversary.
The biblical story of the 12 spies, whom Moses sent to scout out the Land of Canaan, after the Israelites’ Exodus from Egypt has a DEEP meaning; ten of the twelve spies sinned by reporting back to Moses that it was impossible to conquer the land God chose for/dedicated to the Israelites to be their Homeland. Two spies – Joshua son of Nun and Caleb son of Jephunneh -went against their fellow spies’ flow and advocated for an attempt to take possession of the land.
All twelve spies saw the same facts, but ten were faithless and without a vision, while the two others were confident they could enter Canaan and make it into the homeland for the Jewish people, Judea and Israel.
The prognostication: If you have vision and faith and perseverance, you will end up having great success.
And that is what Meir Fenigstein had, vision and faith. He worked tirelessly to always have the films made in Israel and/or films produced by Israelis brought to the wide screen, so far approximately 1000 feature films, documentaries, television dramas and short films, with over one million filmgoers. It was not an easy road to take, a road that took much dedication and tenacity.
The Festival began with a dream, many thought it was beyond a sensible dream, with one film and six showing screens. To allow the festival to expand, much creative help came from Israel. As the country’s standing grew, the art of the film grew as well. The Festival brought hundreds of Israeli filmmakers to the United States to share their art, an upright aspect to express Israel’s dimensional face, to tell Israel’s story, to tell the Jewish story, whatever the subject was. And Israel’s film industry rose above and beyond Hollywood’s imagination. The stories, many reflected the kind of life Israelis experience, became hits. Israeli film and TV content became the most sought after by Hollywood.
Thirty-two years later, the Israel Film Festival is becoming more relevant, connecting viewers to Israeli life and culture and bringing them closer to Israel through the lens.
In the past Hollywood made films about the nation of Israel’s history, whether based on biblical stories or about the founding of the Jewish state, such as the Ten Commandments and Exodus. Moving forward, the IFF brings to filmgoers films made by Israelis, telling the stories of day-to-day State of Israel’s life.
Through Netflix, the Arab world has a window into Israel and distances are shrinking, all could help bring peace, one person at the time. Through Netflix, countless people could see beyond the conflict and misery, which opened a wide door and shines bright light on life in Israel.
Israel is already well known for being a Start-Up Nation, having distinctive military might, having lengthy humanitarian aid extended hand reaching over 100 countries. Now, the Jewish State is at the top of the list of the film art.
Nowadays, the Israel Film Festival is produced by IsraFest Foundation, Inc., a not for-profit organization created in 1982. But before there was Internet and before there was Netflix there was Meir Fenigstein, a fearless many with huge vision and some Israeli chutzpah and if not for him the Festival would have never been born.
Imagination leads to greatness. Without imagination there is no creativity. If you do not believe me, ask Meir. This small shtetl is making celluloid waves everywhere.