Abour Prof. Amir Har-Gil

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 from Poland but whose families perished in the Holocaust. My parents were among the generation of the founders of the State of Israel and I was raised on Zionist stories that were told after an era of persecution and humiliation, stories that strengthened in me a commitment to justice and an aspiration to improve and repair which were expressed at an early age. 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 disadvantaged youth’s group, at the time an unusual initiative. I enlisted and served as a combat medic in the 50th paratroopers’ battalion, my duty being to save, not to kill people.

Together with my friends we founded a new kibbutz in the Arava region, Kibbutz Samar, based on ideas of full trust and cooperation; the majority could not make decisions for individuals, so that members’ sole commitment was to their own personal conscience.  

In the Youth movement I was elected instructor, head of a ken (nest, group) and coordinator of the branch in Kiryat Ata, a town in which the crime rate at the time was among the highest in Israel. I started a working youths’ group at a time when as a rule, youth movement members came from prestigious schools and classes. Some of my instruction partners had doubts about my initiative, but I managed to lead the boys in the group I started up to their enlistment to Nachal, IDF’s combatant pioneers.

I studied teaching cinema and arts at the Midrasha School of Art and decided 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 have influence over more than 40 children and decided to study cinema and television at the Beit Zvi School for Performing Arts. I focused on documentary movies because I felt that feature films are by and large escapist and since Israel is still in its’ formation and crystallization stages, one needs to cry out and bring to public attention to topics that indicate the need for correction and strive to contribute to the process of shaping and improving Israeli society. I perceived documentary films as suitable means to do that and was the first 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 the Israeli Television, Channel 1, the only channel at the time. The producer proposed I direct a feature film, but along with that tempting offer Hayim Yavin suggested I do a reportage for his program “Mabat Sheni” (A Second Glance) which he edited and presented. At the time this was the only investigations’ program in Israel. After thinking over both options I chose “Mabat Sheni” although I did realize I will have no other opportunity to direct a feature film. I started working at “Mabat Sheni” where I could deal with important, central topics. My investigation reportages dealt with privatization of public services, adopted children, the need to introduce changes in the kibbutz movement, corruption at the Religious Council, dubious connections between contractors and Muslim Waqf officials and the inhuman treatment of East Jerusalem residents.

The short reportages I directed also dealt with social topics. For example reportages for “Erev Hadash” (New Evening) program of the Educational Television that 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 new approaches in education.

In parallel I was instructor at the “Hadasim” Youth Village in a program intended to empower disadvantaged youths through teaching them to make films.

I got married and joined the kibbutz my wife was born in. I was recruited to head the video program of the Kibbutz Movement which was broadcast in all kibbutzim. I directed a series of reportages called “Shiputz Kibbutz” (renewing the kibbutz) aiming to stimulate kibbutz members to think about possible changes in the kibbutzim which were in a crisis at the time.

In parallel to all that I directed films. Many of my films dealt with social problems in Israel. Some of my films are used by various educational institutions to open discussions: “Good Morning Israel” which deals with social gaps and hostility among different sectors in Israel, was introduced in the curricula of the Department for Democracy of the Ministry of Education, 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 is used in Bnei Akiva, Hashomer Hatzair and the Scouts’ Youth Movements’ instructions’ programs.    

The film “Life according to Eve” dealing with poverty in Israel, was introduced into the Communications’ Program of the Ministry of Education.

The film “Jerusalem in Line” dealing with the way Arab residents of East Jerusalem are treated, was screened at the High Court of Justice as testimony about the unfair treatment they receive. In addition, the film was screened at the State Attorney’s office; the crowning glory however, was screening the film 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.

The film “Entangled” is Rashomon: 6 point of view about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The film was introduced into curricula for encouragement of 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 exposing my films in educational frameworks as mentioned above, all my films were screened at the various television channels; some of them won prizes in Israel and in other countries.

During all these years I was engaged in both teaching and film directing. At the Netanya Academic College I was among the initiators of the 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, give encouragement (Idud)” for residents of Idud village.

“It all comes back to you” for reducing the use of plastic.

“Where is your child” for prevention of alcohol abuse among children.

In 2016 I managed to engage Masters’ students at the University of Haifa in creating films for the most disadvantaged children in Israeli society, children who live in the “Holy Heart Hostel” in Haifa. These children suffer from deep retardation as well as difficult handicaps. The students made three films intended to raise funds for improving the conditions of those children.

My academic research also revolves around social topics, such as empowering disadvantaged youths by means of teaching video, strengthening social cohesion by means of community video, ethical considerations in documentary filmmaking.

Three times I was offered to head communication or cinema departments or programs in academic institutions, the most attractive of which was from Teesside University in Middlesbrough, England who offered that I be head of a communication program centered on documentary filmmaking. I refused to undertake all these tempting offers because I wanted to dedicate my time to making documentary films and chose to live and be engaged in education in Israel.

In retrospect it seems all my films are engaged in, or demand self-examination. I believe my role as filmmaker is to bring about viewers to rethink, 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. One was released from Nachal combat service and studies music, one is combat medic with the Egoz Patrol and the third one finished high-school and like her two brothers, volunteered for one year of pre-army service.

Recently I was pleased to receive several feedbacks on my work:

7 international prizes within 7 months, for 2 new films I made.

I was elected (for the 3rd time) as “outstanding lecturer” in Masters’ Degree program, Cinema Culture, University of Haifa.

I received a “Certificate of Appreciation” for over a decade of social activities concerning the excellence project at the Netanya Academic College.     

My film “Life According to Eve” was chosen to be screened again at the International Film Festival for Children in Tel-Aviv.

I received an “Appreciation Certificate” from the “Holy Heart” Hostel for our help.