Growing up in Tel Aviv, I studied photography in highschool. I would walk along the Yarkon river bank, which used to be a dump and one of the more gloomy areas in the city, and I took pictures of scrap objects, syringes, dead animals and things washed up by the river along the bank. It was like going inside the belly of a beast and documenting what is hidden from the eye.
Later, I moved to the United States and studied in Chicago and in Los Angeles. I was influenced by the French New Wave; Godard and Alain Resnais and experimental cinema, such as Norman McLaren’s abstract films in which he draws directly on the celluloid film. I was exposed to these films for the first time and was captivated. Until my last semester, all my short films were scripted and I had no interest in documentary work.
In the last class before graduation, I was given an assignment of making a five minute doc. I read about a special program that ran by long-term prison inmates who teach illiterate inmates how to read and write. I asked for permission to document it. My first interviewees were convicted murderers and the experience was simply enthralling. Meeting with people that I could never meet otherwise, learn how they think, what their stories are. It took a year and a half to finish my first documentary, Sentenced to Learn. To my utter surprise, the film was invited to a prestigious Festival, in the Pompidou Center in Paris, for a series called “Landmarks in American Documentary Film.” In Paris, I met the American documentary filmmakers that I had just learned about in school: Al Meisels, Richard Leacock, Ross McElwee, Alan Berliner and others, whose films screened in this series. My student film was shown alongside leading filmmakers. It was a pivotal moment for me.
25 years after my first student film, I made Inside the Mossad. Sitting and talking with secretive Mossad agents, people that you would never otherwise meet, took me back to my first film with the prison inmates - getting intimate with a subject and people that are far from the eye. Documentary filmmaking is a fascinating journey, usually painful and bruising too, that lets you understand the world better and to expose your perception of it to your viewers.