A Greenhouse of Creativity for the Filmmakers of Tomorrow

American Friends learn why TAU's Department of Film and Television grads are having global impact

The only degree-granting film program in Israel, Tel Aviv University's Department of Film and Television is one of the world's most distinguished. Films by students and alumni garner Oscar nominations, and are regular award-winners at major international film festivals including Cannes, Sundance, and Berlin.

At a private breakfast, guests of the "Discover TAU: Campus and Beyond" mission saw for themselves why TAU's faculty, students and alumni are among the world's leading filmmakers — known for their passion, creativity, honesty and wit. Prof. Hannah Naveh, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, calls the Department the "main attraction" of her Faculty. "This is the age of the visual, the age of the moving image. Film is how young people want to express themselves," she told the group.

The Department's top priority is to encourage students to exercise their creativity. Yaron Shani, an Oscar-nominated director, TAU alumnus, and new faculty member, credited the Department for supporting him in the development of the unorthodox technique that shaped his critically acclaimed film, Ajami. Using non-actors working without a script, Shani was able to bring an unflinchingly honest form of drama to the screen. No other film school, he said, would have given him the same freedom.

Now, as a teacher, Shani helps his students embrace who they are. "I'm overwhelmed by the work of the students, which shows so much creativity and maturity," he said. And working at the Department as a teacher rather than a student is helping him to grow as an artist as well. "It's like a greenhouse. I'm flourishing and bursting with energy here."

Prof. Michal Aviad, also a faculty member and award-winning filmmaker, agreed that connecting with young filmmakers is a vastly rewarding benefit of teaching at TAU. "It's a great opportunity to meet with the filmmakers and audiences of tomorrow. They help to shape my taste," she said.

During the breakfast, mission participants had the opportunity to preview work and participate in a Q&A about Israeli cinema and craft of filmmaking. The work Israel is producing, the speakers agreed, is shaped by its particular realities — including smaller budgets and the social diversity produced by immigration and ongoing political strife.

"Part of being a filmmaker in this country is being part of the struggle and challenging the different realities. You have something to say — and the responsibility to say it," said Prof. Aviad.

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