Photo: Courtesy of The Jewish Chronicle Online
New York Film Academy student Omri Bezalel learned that good deeds and great filmmaking sometimes produce unexpected rewards when he was granted the opportunity to interview George Lucas for an upcoming project.
Omri Bezalel was born in Tel Aviv and has lived all over world. He believes his passion for film began when he was nine years old and spent his summer toying with a camcorder and filming commercials with a friend.
In October 2009, Bezalel began his studies at the New York Film Academy. “It’s a great program which is very intense and hands on,” he reports of his experience with NYFA. A dedicated filmmaker, he publishes all of his work, including his film projects with the New York Film Academy, on his website, Carlito Montana Productions.
Bezalel is currently working with Films Without Borders, a program to teach Israeli, Palestinian and Rwandan teenagers filmmaking skills and promote peaceful interaction between the three communities. Television producer Jill Samuels, the idea-lady behind Films Without Borders, happens to be a former employee of George Lucas. Lucas accepted her invitation to back the project, and this past April, 26 year old Omri Bezalel found himself walking into the Picadilly editing suites in London to interview the iconic director.
During Omri’s interview, Lucas explains that the silver lining encircling today’s economically precarious environment offers a special place for young filmmakers.
You live in a wonderful time. Because the consortium of rich corporations which used to control the entire medium is now doomed. Now anyone can make movies – you can buy a studio, everything, for around $3,000. And it’s as high quality as anybody has. And now with the internet you also have a distribution center which no one controls.
Considering the delicate and overwhelmingly grim political circumstances that inspired Film Without Borders, Lucas’ subsequent comments concerning the enjoyability of a film are fitting. The content of a movie, no matter how serious, should still be appealing enough for the audience to want to watch it. ”Hopefully, in the process of entertaining them, you give them insight into their own lives and into their own world, but you can’t lose sight of the fact that people are giving you their time and money,” Lucas advices that it is important that a film entertain, not preach; otherwise, it is unlikely to gather many viewers.
In his final words with the director, Bezalel voiced his anxiety that every good story has already been told. George Lucas admitted that, yes, they have, but reevaluating tropes is by no means a negative. “People have been telling stories for 10,000 years, ” is Lucas’ explanation, “There are only 32 kinds of story. So don’t think you’re going to tell a new story – the only thing that changes is the way you tell the story.” Retelling an archetypal journey, or a combination a several, is in the nature of all modern storytelling, and consequently, finding a unique way to do so is an integral part of cinema.
Armed with the words of one of the world’s most influential directors, Bezalel has no dearth of inspiration to bring to his work with Film Without Borders and to Israel’s blossoming film industry. Omri Bezalel’s commitment to filmmaking is illuminated by his respect for his own nation’s work in cinema. “A lot of Israeli films I see are better than studio films. Film is an international language,” articulates the New York Film Academy student, “I want to see Israeli film celebrated at the Oscars for what it is, in the Best Film [sic] category, not Best Foreign-Language Film.” When Bezalel graduates from the New York Film Academy, he plans to return to Israel to teach a course for Film Without Borders. Bezalel has already made impressive progress bringing attention to Israeli film and using cinema to spread peace. We’ll certainly keep our ears open for more news about his ongoing projects.