Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Israel Film Archive Launches New Digital Film Archive – Making Israel’s Audiovisual History More Accessible Than Ever

Opens the treasures of the Israeli Film Archive worldwide, allowing a rare glimpse into tens of thousands of titles, from 1896 to present day

Institution home to one of the world’s great arthouse cinemas and annual Jerusalem Film Festival, invested $10 million in a digital revolution to bring massive archive of artistic and historical films – narrative &  documentary – online for the streaming era and share them with the world; Furthers long-term commitment to free expression.

Innovative project, which started seven years ago, involves digitization of rare footage on film and video, some of which were stored in tin cans on the archive’s shelves for many years; Advanced digital preservation system and detailed catalog including 8,000 topics, 4,000 public figures, landmarks, and dates accessible through interactive search.

Israel’s Audiovisual Heritage is Now Accessible to All [Here]

Since 1960, the Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Israel Film Archive has been responsible for the safekeeping and preservation of original Israeli narrative and documentary films works – from the late 19th century until the present-day. Starting today, the general public can now explore the Archive’s generations of film treasures on-demand and from any place in the world through The New Digital Film Archive.

The new website has two main on-demand options: The Artistic View, with a selection of feature and documentary films made in Israel; and The Historical View that travels through Israel’s rich history through thousands of rare archival materials.

The Historical View is accessible and free of charge (and the primary focus of today’s announcement); the Artistic View contains 300 feature films (some of which are accessible for a small fee). In addition, the archivists chose to add 10 classic narrative films that will be accessible internationally for one year at a price of $4.99 USD (15 NIS) per view and includes films by Boaz Davidson and Avi Nesher.

The Israel Film Archive

In a climate controlled film archive adjacent to Jerusalem’s Old City walls, sits a treasure trove of modern film materials that comprise the Israel Film Archive.

Dating from the end of the 19th century to the 21st century, from the dawn of cinema to the start of the digital era, it is a cultural-cinematic wealth and home to historical films, many quite rare, in celluloid and video formats (16mm film, 35mm, Beta, U-matic, etc.), and holds 96% of all feature films ever produced in Israel. Established 40 years ago, the archive has served cultural institutions, researchers, and filmmakers in Israel and abroad.

Now for the first time, this archive of films – feature-length and shorts – that had only been accessible to researchers in-person, is being opened for people to search and stream on demand from around the world. Following a $10 million preservation, restoration, and digitization process begun in 2015 – by dozens of researchers, cataloguers, and other staff – the entire Israel Film Archive, Israel’s official film deposit center, is available to the public in North America for the first time.

The materials made available on this innovative website have been translated, tagged, and mapped, and are now completely searchable in English by keyword or phrase, year, landmark, and location. For example, one may find over 8,000 searchable topics and over 4,000 searchable interesting people and notable public figures. The result is a dynamic new website that offers a unique opportunity to browse through Israel’s filmed history as documented in newsreels (including every newsreel produced in Israel from 1927-1972), home movies (offering a uniquely personal view of Israel from residents and visitors over the decades) including entire family collections, and rare films. The archive is a core part of the Jerusalem Cinematheque, which welcomes over 500,000 filmgoers to its cinema each year and has as its mission to champion dialogue, inspire, influence lives through film, with emphasis on diverse audiences and filmmaking in a tolerant society. It also hosts the annual Jerusalem Film Festival, the largest, longest-running, and most important cinematic event of its kind in Israel.

The Israel Film Archive – an active member of  the International Federation of Film Archives (FIAF) – holds over 32,000 titles, recorded on two million meters of film, and 4,500 hours of productions made in Israel and has a digital storage volume of about 6 petabytes (6 million gigabytes). This project led to the creation of the first advanced professional laboratory in Israel transforming film reels into digital formats at international standards. Disintegrating film reels, often containing the only copy in the world of a particular film and unable to be projected until now, are now archived in 4k quality digital files, saving them from oblivion and guaranteeing a depository for the next generation.

One of the archive’s main projects in recent years has been its restoration of films such as the 16mm original format of Avanti Popolo, Siege, and Life According to Agfa which were not only shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival but also in the Cannes and Berlinale’s most prestigious sections.

Stored in the archives are genuine holy grails such as film pioneers, the Lumiere Brothers’ ultra-rare footage from when they filmed the landscapes of Jerusalem, Jaffa, and Bethlehem in 1896. These films, shot by the Lumiere Brothers, are considered the first ever video footage of Palestine. Those materials remain accessible to in-person researchers, while others from this period will be accessible online.

Thousands of films that show daily life in Israel at different periods in Israel’s history are also available in this searchable archive. Another project has been to preserve and bring online videos of U.S. Jewish communities, U.S. politicians, American celebrities (including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr.) and their visits to Israel, all of which will be available in the archive.

The historical materials have undergone in-depth research and mapping in order to enable visitors from all over the world to search and locate films from our general and personal history, either by year or landmark on an interactive map, including 8,000 topics, 4,000 public figures, and more.

The site https://jfc.org.il/?lang=eng is best accessed using Google Chrome. (Download Google Chrome for your desktop, laptop, or mobile device now here.). The digital archive is also accessible via many other methods including via the Amazon Silk web browser on smart televisions and via the Google Chrome browser on smart devices including tablets and smartphones.

Special Release of 10 Historic Narrative Films

Additionally, archivists from the Jerusalem Cinematheque have chosen ten historic narrative films – a mix of cult classics, dramas, comedies – to highlight from among 250 feature-length films made in Israel/Palestine from 1928 until present-day to be made accessible for one year for rent for $4.99 USD (15 NIS) – starting with the launch in October:

Alex Holeh Ahavah / Alex Is Lovesick (Directed by Boaz Davidson)

Aviva, My Love (Directed by Shemi Zarhin)

Charlie Ve’hetzi / Charlie and a Half (Directed by Boaz Davidson)

Ahava Colombianit / Colombian Love (Directed by Shay Kanot)

Giv’at Halfon Eina Ona / Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer (Directed by Assi Dayan)

Matzor (Directed by Gilberto Tofano)

Hagiga B’Snuker / Party at the Snooker (Directed by Boaz Davidson)

Zohi Sdom / This Is Sodom (Directed by Adam Sanderson and Muli Segev)

Three Days and a Child / Shlosha Yamim Veyeled (Directed by Uri Zohar)

Sof Haolam Smola / Turn Left at the End of the World (Directed by Avi Nesher) – Zohar (Directed by Eran Riklis)

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