Israeli filmmakers Edna and Elinor Kowarsky once thought that they would never be able to reach U.S. audiences with their films. In 1989, they formed their production company, Eden Productions, to make films about social issues in the Middle East. While their company grew to become a leading source of documentary content in Israel, working with the top directors in the region to get their films broadcast in Israeli and in European markets, the U.S. audience remained elusive. “Americans are only interested to see films about themselves,” was one of the warnings Edna heard much too often from broadcasters and funders in other parts of the world. “They won’t watch a film in a foreign language” was another.
But then they discovered ITVS International. The mother-daughter team learned of International Call, ITVS’s fund for international documentary filmmakers, at a co-production forum in Tel Aviv where they met Vice President of Programming Claire Aguilar. At first, the Kowarskys were skeptical that their projects would be competitive, especially because they were mostly in Hebrew and Arabic. Nonetheless, in 2007, they submitted a project proposal to International Call requesting completion funds for the film SEEDS OF SUMMER.
A production with first-time director Hen Lasker, this verité film follows a group of young women during one of the most rigorous combat courses in the Israeli army over the course of 66 days and nights. It was the first time that the Israeli military allowed any filmmaker such intimate access to female soldiers. The peer review panel for ITVS International chose this project in part because the story speaks in a very personal way to universal themes of coming of age and living under constant threat of war.
“Although we tell a local story, the girl’s difficulties, their conflicts and their personal dilemmas are easy to identify with,” says Edna. Not only did the Kowarskys receive the money they needed to finish the film, but they also formed a creative relationship with the ITVS International team, which helped them navigate the U.S. marketplace to find a home for the program on cablecaster The Documentary Channel. (SEEDS OF SUMMER aired nationally on January 12.) “ITVS made it possible for us to produce our film and made it possible for U.S. viewers to widen their perspective and be exposed to a reality so distant from them, yet so very close,” remarked Edna. Interested in watching this film? It is now available to watch online through our digital partners Caachi and Jaman.
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