Abour Prof. Amir Har-Gil
My films opened festivals in Israel and other countries and won 40 international prizes (see CV)
I believe in human beings and their ability to change; I am committed to Hillel the Elder’s saying “In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man”. I believe this has to do with the fact that I was born and raised in Tel-Aviv to parents who managed to escape from Germany and Poland but whose families perished in the Holocaust. My parents were among the generation of founders of the State of Israel; I was raised on Zionist stories told after an era of persecution and humiliation, stories that at an early age engendered in me a commitment to justice and an aspiration to improve and repair. I went to the A.D. Gordon Educational School for Laborer’s Children (Beit Chinuch le Yaldei Ovdim) and was a member of the Hashomer Hatzair Youth Movement. As a young instructor at the youth movement, I founded a group of disadvantaged youth, an initiative unusual at the time. In IDF I served as a combat medic in the 50th paratroopers’ battalion, committed to save, not kill people.
With a group of friends, we founded a Kibbutz Samar in the Arava region, based on ideals of full trust and freedom; decisions concerning individuals could not be made by the majority but were based solely on the individual members’ personal conscience and commitment.
In the Youth movement I was the leader of a “ken” (group) and coordinator of the Kiryat Ata branch, a town in which at the time, the crime rate was among the highest in Israel. I started a working youths’ group in a period when youth movement members usually came from prestigious schools. Some of my partners were doubtful about this initiative, but I managed to lead the boys in the group up to their enlistment to Nachal, IDF’s combatant pioneers.
I studied teaching cinema and arts at the Midrasha School of Art and subsequently went on to teach at a school in a poor neighborhood in South Jaffa, where Jewish and Arab children lived and studied together.
I realized I wanted to influence more than 40 children and went to study cinema and television at the Beit Zvi School for Performing Arts. I focused on documentary movies because I felt that by and large feature films are escapist and Israel still being in its’ formation and crystallization stages – crying out and bringing to public attention topics to be improved are needed in order to contribute to the process of shaping Israeli society. Documentary films seemed a suitable means to do that; I was the only student to declare my intention to engage in documentary filmmaking right at the start of our studies.
I graduated Cum Laude and started working at Channel 1 at the Israeli Television, the only channel at the time. The producer proposed I direct a feature film; however along with that tempting offer Hayim Yavin offered that I make a reportage for his “Mabat Sheni” (A Second Glance) a program he edited and presented. At the time this was the only investigations’ program in Israel. I chose “Mabat Sheni” although I did realize I may not have another opportunity to direct a full feature film. I started working at “Mabat Sheni” where I could deal with central, important topics. My investigation reportages dealt with the privatization of public services, adopted children, the need to introduce changes in the kibbutz movement, the corruption at the Religious Council, the dubious connections between contractors and Muslim Waqf officials and the inhuman treatment of East Jerusalem residents.
The short reportages I directed dealt with social topics as well. For example reportages for “Erev Hadash” (New Evening) program of the Educational Television dealt with the lack of appropriate treatment for the elderly in Israel, the harsh conditions of persons suffering from down syndrome, a series of reportages about road accidents and ways to prevent them for a program “Al Galgalim” (on wheels) for Channel 1 and a series of reportages for “Hadash Baeinayim”, a program of the Educational Channel, about innovative approaches in education.
In parallel I was instructor at the “Hadasim” Youth Village in a program intended to empower disadvantaged youths by teaching them to make films.
I got married and joined Yakum, the kibbutz my wife was born in, where I headed the Kibbutz Movement’s video program, broadcast in all kibbutzim. I also directed a series of reportages called “Shiputz Kibbutz” (renovating the kibbutz) aimed to stimulate kibbutz members to consider changes in the kibbutzim, in crisis at the time.
In parallel I directed films, many of which dealt with social issues in Israel. Some of these films are still used by various educational institutions as introductions to discussions:
“Good Morning Israel” about social gaps and hostility among various sectors in Israel, became part of the curricula of the Ministry of Education’s Department for Democracy; the film was translated into several languages and is used by Jewish Agency activists in many countries, it is part of the IDF’s Educational Corps and it is used in Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair and the Scouts’ Youth Movements’ instructions’ programs.
“Life according to Eve” dealing with poverty in Israel, was introduced into the Ministry of Education’s Communications’ Program.
“Jerusalem in Line” attesting to the unfair treatment Arab residents in East Jerusalem receive, was screened at the High Court of Justice. The film was also screened at the State Attorney’s office and most importantly at the Knesset (Israeli Parliament), as grounds for discussion among establishment members. The film contributed to the improvement of the treatment of East Jerusalem residents.
“Entangled” is Rashomon story: Six viewpoints about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film became part of a curricula aimed at encouraging dialogue, sponsored by the European Union.
“Rainbow 2” was screened for all soldiers in regular and standing army service, before entering Judea and Samaria or Gaza areas.
In addition to the above, all my films were screened at the various television channels; some won prizes in Israel and other countries.
Throughout these years I was engaged in teaching and film directing. At the Netanya Academic College, I was among the initiators of an excellence program in which students initiate and produce campaigns that have social or community goals. These projects resulted in the following products:
“Voices of Ethiopia” for the Ethiopian community.
“Take a flower, offer encouragement (Idud)” for residents of Idud village.
“It all comes back to you” to reduce the use of plastic.
“Where is your child” to prevent alcohol abuse among children.
I engaged Masters’ students at Haifa University in creating films for the most disadvantaged children in Israeli society, children living in the “Holy Heart Hostel” in Haifa. These children suffer from deep retardation and difficult handicaps. The students made three films intended to raise funds for improving the conditions of those children.
My academic research revolves around social topics such as empowering disadvantaged youths by teaching video, strengthening social cohesion through community video and ethical considerations in documentary filmmaking.
I was offered to head communication and cinema departments and programs in academic institutions, the most attractive of which from Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England, to Head a program focused on documentary filmmaking. I refused the tempting offers because I was dedicated to making documentary films, to live and be engaged in education in Israel.
In retrospect I realize all my films are engaged in and demand self-examination. I believe my role as filmmaker is to bring viewers to reconsider, to engage in new reflections about their lives. If I managed to do that, I am content.
Family status: my wife, Adva, is a social worker at the “Head Injuries’ Rehabilitation Center” of the Ministry of Defense. We have 3 children, all of them volunteered for a year of service in disadvantaged areas –all of them are students.
My films opened festivals in Israel and other countries and won 40 international awards. (See details in CV)
I was elected four times as an “outstanding lecturer”, Masters’ Degree program, Cinema Culture, University of Haifa.
“Certificate of Appreciation” for over a decade of social activities, Excellence Project, Netanya Academic College.
“Certificate of Appreciation” for the help we extended to the “Holy Heart” Hostel.
All these acknowledgments reinforce my sense of having made meaningful professional choices.