Remarks by the Tánaiste at the opening of the Israeli Film Festival24 November 2011
Ambassador, ladies and gentlemen,
When the Lumière Brothers showed the first moving pictures to a paying audience back in 1896, they were an instant success and, over the course of the century that followed, cinema moved from projecting light at a wall to projecting a light on the world. The world, of course, has a wealth of cultures and dialogue between peoples and cultures is an essential prerequisite to enhancing mutual understanding and respect.
Dialogue is a two way process and I see the Israeli Film Days, which we are launching here tonight, as mirroring the annual Irish Film Week at the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv.
At his inauguration, President Higgins encouraged “the flowering of creativity in all its forms” and here at Film Base it is worth recalling the role the President played as Culture Minister in developing the Irish film industry. Indeed, while Minister in the 1990s, he wrote that Ireland’s choice was “whether we become the consumer of images in a passive culture or whether we will be allowed to be the makers of images in an active culture, in a democratic society.”
The same choices apply to all peoples and the sign of a healthy democracy is one which makes space for the makers of images. Film is a relatively new medium, but it has become a vital form of expression, with film-makers often casting a critical eye over the world around them.
There are those in Ireland who view Israel exclusively through the lens of the situation of the Palestinian people and their right to a viable, sovereign, independent State. Some of them are demonstrating outside this theatre as I speak and they are fully entitled to do so in a peaceful fashion. Indeed, I do not hide that the Irish Government is also in open disagreement with many aspects of Israeli policy towards the occupied Palestinian territories.
But those of us here tonight recognise that it is possible to view Israel and Israelis through many different lenses which give us different insights into the rich and varied culture of a people who draw inspiration from the ancient and the modern.
The Israeli film industry has earned a reputation for raising difficult questions on a broad range of topical issues and for not being afraid to challenge existing orthodoxies. Over the next four days we will have the opportunity to take a new and different look at Israel and the Israeli people from a wide variety of perspectives and to add to our understanding of Israeli culture as well as our understanding of cross-cutting themes which are universal in nature.
We will be free to interpret what we see in the context of our existing knowledge and awareness. I expect that the films projected at this festival, like any other festival, will prompt discussion and even debate but I have no doubt that the audiences here will also be entertained.
I would like to close by congratulating the Ambassador of Israel, His Excellency Mr. Boaz Modai, and his staff at the Embassy for taking this welcome initiative and by thanking the staff at Film Base for helping to stage it. I am delighted to be associated with the launch of this cultural festival and would like to join with everyone involved in wishing it every success.