Israeli film pioneer honored at Berlin festival


BERLIN (JTA) — Israeli film pioneer Lia van Leer received a Camera Award at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival.

Van Leer, 86, of Jerusalem, was honored Feb. 13 for creating Israel’s first film club and cinema houses, the Jerusalem Film Festival and a matchless film archive.

She said the future of Israeli film looks bright.

"There is so much talent, and the government now helps with money," she told JTA.

Several Israeli films are being screened at this year’s festival by filmmakers such as Jonathan Sagall, Michal Aviad, Nir Bergman, Tomer Heyman, Guy Nattiv, Dani Rosenberg and Yoav Gross.

Van Leer, whose parents were killed in the Holocaust, started a film club with her husband, the Dutch engineer and film producer Wim van Leer, in Haifa in 1952.

"Suddenly, collecting film was like collecting books," a member of the early club said in Taly Goldenberg’s documentary film "Lia," which was shown at the ceremony.

By 1960, the van Leers had collected enough films — including some they had smuggled out of the former East Germany — to launch the Israel Film Archive in Jerusalem. The archive has more than 30,000 films, many of them rare.

In accepting the honor from Berlinale creative manager and director Dieter Kosslick, van Leer said that the only shadow on her celebration was the sentencing in Iran of filmmaker Jafar Panahi, who also is banned from making films for 20 years. Kosslick has kept a symbolic empty chair for Panahi at the festival.

"But let’s not be sad, let’s smile and hope for a better future," van Leer said.


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