The “Homeward” Film Project

Jerusalem’s Maaleh Film School explores what home means to us all
in these difficult times, through short films from around the world

By Aryeh Green

In challenging times, we all mobilize our resources and strengths. Already in the early days of Covid19, Maaleh Film School in Jerusalem became an address for schools, organizations and individuals who sought films and accompanying content; with life moving ever more online, a pressing need has arisen for available, appropriate short materials to hold the attention of students and other audiences (alongside passive viewing on Netflix and the like).

Maaleh has responded by offering creative short movies with meaningful and educational content, with accompanying lectures and discussions. These films tell stories and present conflicts related to Israeli holidays, Israeli predicaments, social/cultural/political phenomena, and issues related to Jewish identity and more. (https://www.maale.co.il/en/home)

Recognizing a need for something even more creative – and active – to engage the new #stayhome cadre, Maaleh initiated the Homeward project in September, after months of preparation and coalition-building. Homeward is a short-video competition open to anyone interested – professional filmmakers and celebrities, public figures, amateur filmmakers and essentially everyone with a camera/cellphone. The theme “homeward” was developed in the spirit of the period – the feeling of coming home, going home, staying home… with which many around the world can identify, as the Corona pandemic has forced us to remain at home and distance ourselves from our closest friends and family (with whom we often feel most ‘at home’).

A video with commentary by one of Israel’s greatest contemporary writers, David Grossman, on what Homeward means to him, has gone viral, including an invitation for others around the world to participate in the initiative. Dozens of videos have already entered the competition, at the end of which cash prizes will be awarded for the best films. The judging panel includes Hollywood producers Zvi Howard Rosenman and Nancy Spielberg, actress Ayelet Zurer, and screenwriter and creator of the series Stisel, Ori Elon (a graduate of Maaleh).

The videos already received, from Russia, Iraq, Argentina, Israel, the US and other countries, bring different styles to bear on the meaning of the term home and homeward for each creator. Many community and cultural leaders are also participating, from ministers and mayors to singers and actors, artists, chefs and more, from Israel and across the globe.

Maaleh, using the language of cinema to connect people through film, and with its experience and broad global network of people involved in the movie industry, is proud to serve as initiator and coordinator of the endeavor. (Among the partners actively promoting the project are the City of Jerusalem, the WZO, Makor Rishon newspaper, the Jerusalem Foundation, UJA-JCC of Greenwich, Taglit/Birthright, the Jerusalem Film & TV Fund, Nefesh b’Nefesh, International Young Israel Movement – Israel Region, Tower of David, Go2 Films, JFlix, Kipa, the Jerusalem Filmmakers Guild, the Herzl Center, and Israel’s Tourism Ministry and Diaspora Affairs Ministry.)

The collection of short films of the Homeward Bound project are available for viewing as a digital exhibition on a dedicated YouTube Channel. Over 100 videos have already entered the competition. (Here’s a sneak peak at some of the videos that have been submitted.)

The goal is to create an emotional connection between people around the world, through exactly that medium which brings other worlds into our home, on the screen. As Israelis and Jews who have experienced difficult and challenging crises and periods throughout history, the team at Maaleh believes that they have a role to play, to connect and uplift people through the art of film. We invite anyone and everyone to join in the fun… coming home!

(Deadline for sending videos is October 18th. For more information, go to http://www.habayitah.co.il/home.html.)

Aryeh Green, a business executive and author of My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land, serves on the board of the Maaleh Film School.