Progress at the Israel Film Archive

posted November 29, 2021

In its efforts to help viewers to gauge what life has looked like in Israel since its founding in 1948, the Israel Film Archive at the Jerusalem Cinematheque has reached a significant milestone.

It has completed work on providing English subtitles to all the newsreels in its online collection.

Now the Archive’s specialists are working on doing the same for their many other kinds of audiovisual holdings, including feature films that show what creative minds have made of the country.

“It’s a fantastic achievement,” says Hila Abraham, Digital Archive Project Manager, as the Archive’s ambitious project proceeds. The newsreels date from 1927 to 1972, and are searchable on the Archive’s website; or, users can scroll through the collection items.

Of particular interest are two home Movies collections: Alice Shalvi Home Movie collection (40s-60s) relating to a woman with a fascinating life story, and the Fred Monosson Home Movie Collection, in color, which relates to a distinctive personality in the early years of the state.

Recent additions to the website include the Jerusalem Newsreel Collection, a small set of newsreels made in the municipality. The 30 short news features, some in black and white, others in technicolor, screened in cinemas between the late 1960s and early 1980s before feature film presentations. They chronicle day-to-day events in the Jerusalem of that time: its planning and infrastructure boom, education system, culture and arts scene, and special events during the tenure of then-mayor Teddy Kollek.

More additions are coming, Abraham says: “In early 2022 we’ll upload some more historical footage [including] a fascinating historical collection of films made by the largest and oldest labor organization in Israel, a unique newsreel collection of the kibbutz in Israel, and a key collection of Israel Film Service productions about technology, art, culture, civil matters, science, and much more which span from the early ’50s to late ’90s.”

The Archive’s website offers access to Israeli film collections of all periods, including a video-on-demand viewing platform, a variety of features that enrich viewing experiences, an in-depth exploration of the country’s documented audio-visual history, and collaborations with educational organisations, research institutions, and the film industry.

The Archive’s films, spanning 120 years, provide thousands of hours of often rare archival insights. They are divided into two broad, self-explanatory categories: The Historical View and The Artistic View. In September 2020, after several years of scanning and preservation work, the archive began making its holdings available via its online viewing platform. Providing translations into English for the remainder of the collection will take about three years, Abraham estimates. But new titles are appearing all the time in the Archive’s Video On Demand pages.

And, says Abraham, “I’m glad to report that we are still receiving and finding new historical collections to the archive from institutions and private people who hear about this project and wish to take a part in it.” She says she and her colleagues are keeping track of film labs that close down in Europe and elsewhere, as those can be sources of original Israeli materials that the Archive can preserve.

Since the institution’s digitization project began, even global disruptions of daily life have not dampened support, Abraham says. “I’m very glad to say that all of our supporters continue supporting us, even during these troubled times of Covid.”

Founder of the Jerusalem Cinematheque and Israel Film Archive, Leia Van Lear.

She and her colleagues, including the Archive’s director, Meir Russo, are working to secure permanent and continuous funding for the Archive, to support its considerable growth in recent years. “We believe that providing subtitles in English to all content might have a meaningful effect on fundraising, as well as the fact that in 2022 we are going to execute some exciting educational programs using our materials,” she says. “Our supporters, like us, believe that this website can and should be a valuable and handy tool for everyone who wishes to learn more about Israel’s history, culture, society, and of course cinema.”


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