dana nadav

Source: JSFS / Screen File

Dana Blankstein Cohen, Nadav Lapid

Israeli film professionals are “open to dialogue” at Cannes despite a reported reluctance to engage with them by some in the the international industry due to the ongoing war in Gaza, according to Osnat Bukofzer, director of the Israeli Pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival.

The Pavilion has programmed just two panel events on its seven-day market programme, down from 14 events with participants from 15 countries last year. 

Security is at the same level as previous years with two security guards.

Contrary to some reports, there are no events addressing October 7 nor are family members of Israeli hostages in Gaza planning to attend.

There are some 60 Israeli delegates at this year’s market, roughly on a par with 2023, but comprised of more buyers of international content than usual. There are no Israeli films in Official Selection. 

An exception is Synonyms director Nadav Lapid who is attending the market’s  Investors Circle with his new project Yes!  that will look at contemporary Israeli society like his previous films. “It’s a paradox that while the movie became more urgent than ever, it also became much more complicated to make,” said Lapid.

“Worldwide, there are places where an Israeli project is not the most popular thing. There are all sorts of private companies and investors that are keeping a distance from everything that looks polemical, explosive or political. It’s tragic for me. If cinema cannot find its own answers in such a moment, what is it worth?”

Several other Israeli filmmakers have expressed concern they are being ostracised by the international film community, regardless of their views on the Gaza conflict

“Right now it’s almost impossible either to get financing for Israeli projects from the international markets, or to be accepted to international festivals,” said a leading Israeli producer not in Cannes who spoke on condition of anonymity. “I personally try to attend fewer international forums at least until the war ends.

“In the film industry 99% of us are against our government and have been fighting it for years, and we’re against the ongoing war.

“We’re heartbroken from casualties on both sides. On the other hand, we feel strongly intimidated by international colleagues who ignore the hostage crisis, or refrain from mentioning October 7, or support Hamas.”

Adar Shafran is attending Cannes in his role as director of the Israeli Film & TV Producers Association, as well as to try to sell remake rights for Israeli films and series he has previously made.

“I am not afraid to come to Cannes or anywhere else,” says Shafran. “But I am worried. Our work definitely changed since October 7. It is harder to sell films and it’s harder to create co-productions, and so many projects are stuck.

“Most people just do not want to deal with the issue. We feel that festivals around the world are also influenced by it and make choices that are affected by the situation.”

Dana Blankstein Cohen, executive director of Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, is in Cannes for four days. “Our programmes in Palestinian society [the school has around 10% Palestinian students and does outreach work in Palestinian communities] and our inclusive approach reflect our dedication to fostering understanding and solidarity,” says Cohen. “We advocate for dialogue and engagement with the global creative community, demonstrating through our diverse student body and collaborative ethos that the shared life of Palestinians and Israelis is not only possible but essential.”