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The School garden will be named “The Jungle of Generosity” in honor of John Cassavetes


On Sunday July 7, the last day of the Sam Spiegel International Film Lab, the unique hanging garden of the School will be named in honor the groundbreaking director John Cassavetes, and will be called “The Jungle of Generosity” for his inspiring activism for world cinema’s Don Quixotes… and young Israeli filmmakers.

 

Renen Schorr's moving words:

 

Our Dream -

 The John Cassavetes Aging Masters of Cinema Award

 

In autumn 2019 I will be stepping down from the School after 30 years. For now, I have a longshot dream to offer.

 

There is a sentence by Milan Kudera that was a rosebud sentence for me: "A person's biography is not merely what he did, but what he intended to do - but did not".  I use it till this day as one of our School acceptance exams. This is a two-fold test: submit your CV (dry and factual) and an antidote to the sentence.

 

Well? There are still things to be done around the world.

In 1976, Brian de Palma was shooting The Fury in Caesarea with Kirk Douglas and John Cassavetes in a supporting role. I was then 24 years old, a film student at Tel Aviv University in its first days. A bunch of us youngsters founded a rebellious group that wanted to make films. We called ourselves "the young Israeli cinema manifesto" in an era that content-wise and financially no one was going to give us the chance to make a full-length feature film. One of the group was the 6th, or 7th, or 9th production assistant on this giant set in Caesarea. We asked him to bring us Cassavetes; and he did. Cassavetes said yes. Kirk Douglas was insulted that he wasn't asked.

 

In those days, the Tel Aviv Cinematheque was housed in the shabby Lottery building with only 237 seats. Close to 400 entered the hall, fighting to catch the charisma of Cassavetes. People were sitting in the aisles, on top of one another and on the windowsills.

I accompanied him as he entered the hall and had a sort of long-shot perspective. Both he and his wife Gena Rowlands were baffled. They could not imagine they had enthusiasts, here in Israel, a stereotype desert country with camels. The audience got up. There was a standing ovation before he even opened his mouth.

 

I watched Cassavetes and his wife - and they were in desert- heaven. He inhaled the audience, took a deep breath and said "thank you so much. I came to Israel via Copenhagen. Two weeks ago, I read that Carl Dryer, who is in his early 90's, was refused by the Danish Film Fund to make what will probably be his final farewell film. I had just earned $50,000 on a B-movie in NY. I came to his door in Copenhagen, presented myself and told him that he inspired me from afar and it is my duty and honor to give you this money so that you can make another film".

 

An intimate Q & A followed for over an hour. The heated Israeli audience asked concrete questions and pressed on Cassavetes to give more and more. I have never seen such an electrifying event in Israel like that before, or since.

When this never-ending event was over, our group offered Cassavetes and Rowlands the cheap cognac we purchased in order to toast the evening. Despite the poorest quality of liquor, Cassavetes was clearly taken by the sweeping love of cinema and the demanding audience. He took sip after sip. He looked at us and asked "what is it that you actually do?"

...We answered that we are film students making our first or second short film. I then saw one of the biggest corner-to-corner smiles I have ever seen: "I just finished shooting a film with Gena, the title is A Woman Under the Influence. I do not have a distributor in Israel. I am not a Hollywood guy. But when I get back to LA I will send you a 35mm print. I am giving you distribution rights for Israel. You can use all revenue from the release to make your own shorts, independently".

 

The film played for 40 weeks in Israel. The money went to the Tel Aviv Cinematheque. We made our shorts ourselves.

I didn't understand the meaning of all this in real time.

It is not in my CV, I was just there, as one of the initiators of this enticing event. But it is imprinted in my life.

 

We at the JSFL Have a Dream: The John Cassavetes Aging Masters of Cinema Award

To create, an international new fund for aging world masters of cinema who continue to fight like Don Quixote to finance their next, or perhaps last film. We wish to create the John Cassavetes Aging Masters of Cinema Award, for a crusader in independent filmmaking.

It took me years to understand.

It took me years to understand that Cassavetes was rosebudding himself as an independent, true-to-himself filmmaker through a story that works two ways; one,  by giving oxygen and belief to one of his mentors, whom he didn't even know, and secondly by offering a platform and faith to passionate young filmmakers.

Let's make this longshot a masterful reality.

 

RENEN SCHORR

 

 

 

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