Israel has signed a filmmaking cooperation deal with Russia.
The deal, which is understood to have been in the works for fifteen years, was inked by Israel’s Russian ambassador Alexander Ben Zvi and Russian culture minister Olga Lyubimova.
“Now colleagues from Russia and Israel can exchange experiences, create films together, and work with film archives,” Lyubimova said in a post on the social network Telegram. “We look forward to seeing Israeli filmmakers in the competition programs of our international film festivals and in public discussions. We are also preparing to expand the distribution capabilities of Russian-Israeli films.”
Israel has a significant Russian and Eastern European population and – in theory – a collaboration between the two countries would have made sense at any other time. Lyubimova said Israel first initiated the collaboration back in 2009.
But given that Russia is currently facing sanctions from most of Western Europe following its war on Ukraine, the move to ink a deal has come as a shock to the Israeli filmmaking community. Last year U.S. media and entertainment companies including Netflix, Amazon and WarnerMedia suspended trade with Russia and the country’s government continues to be banned from a number of international events, including film festivals and the Eurovision Song Contest.
Co-founder and CEO of the Israeli-Ukrainian Alliance Anna Zharova hit out at the deal, saying: “Have our Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs completely lost their minds?!”
“The agreement needs to be frozen,” she added.
Eitan Mansuri, the producer of Samuel Maoz’s Venice prizewinning “Foxtrot,” and the series “When Heroes Fly,” is also one of the many Israeli industry figures alarmed by the treaty. “An extremely right wing government is taking down Israeli democracy and supporting a deadly regime,” Mansuri said.
Danna Stern, the former boss of Yes Studios and executive producer of “Your Honor” and “On the Spectrum” told Variety: “It’s extremely unfortunate, obtuse and wrong on multiple levels. As an Israeli producer now based in Europe I would have liked to see the Israeli government using its time, resources and focus to collaborate with Creative Europe for example and foster relationships and treaties with countries and producers on the right side of history.”