Over a decade ago, at the beginning of the third millennium, we dreamt at Sapir Academic College of setting up a new department of cinema and television studies. In the place that is perhaps the least expected in the country - between Sderot and Netivot, and between Gaza and Rahat - for the first time in Israel a study program was born granting BFA that is accredited by the Council of Higher Education. In 2012, the MA/MFA program opened, centering on “Cinema, Production and Theory” - theoretical and practical workshops in the artisan spirit, in which lecturers and students undergo a process of joint study and creation that follows the process of professional work, while deciphering human universal codes, and connecting between the various media through theoretical studies and research.
Within a decade, the department expanded into the School of Audio and Visual Arts, with over 400 students in five academic content tracks: film, television, animation, sound design, scriptwriting and the unique track of film and television engineering. All the tracks and study programs are based on the unique concept of combining theory with practice, while probing deeply into the reality of our lives here in this country, in this south, and in the Middle East, and as part of the greater world, and deeply committed to this reality. The tracks and programs emphasize artistic and political films, and nurture the personal artistic statement of the creator. The theoretical program includes history of the art of cinema, cinematic language, the central theories of cinematic analysis and criticism, and the various trends in cinema. Special attention is paid to the pivotal aspects of cinema creation and thought - in Third World Cinema; the “south” of the world and Israel; exile cinema; experimental cinema; and avant-garde cinema, as well as documentary films of various sorts. This constitutes the major difference between the program we offer and all other programs existing in Israel.
The consolidation of the BA program and the opening of the MA program are another step in our vision of creating a national and international culture center combining image and sound, research and creation. From its inception, the school has chosen to render room for the voice of the “other” in Israeli society - those who do not find their deserving place in the various media. The existence of civic society obligates the integration of this voice into public discourse - and in a college that is aware of its role as an academic institute operating in the southern area of the volatile border, Gaza-Sderot, and rendering room for the self-expression of these populations. The School of Audio and Visual Arts sees itself, in addition to its professional academic designation, as a bridgehead of peace and co-existence in a country in which the social groups are characterized by a separatism that impedes the possibility of common cultural and social existence. This rationale and this basic intention have dictated our world-view of studying and creating other cinema.
One of the main events of the center is Cinema South Festival that takes place every year at the beginning of June at the Cinemateque in Sderot. This international film festival, supported by public and private institutions, is the highlight of the school year, in which we show graduate films of the School of Audio and Visual Arts to an audience of thousands, and to a jury of leading artists, researchers, thinkers, and directors of important festivals from all over the world. At the annual festival we screen the most important films of Israeli cinema, and curate cinema programs from the world of important and radical creators of artistic cinema.
Our world-view in all areas of creation and study is in the spirit of the concept and idea of the poet and cinema person Pier Paolo Pasolini, namely - the Cinema of Poetry. Attempting to decipher this mysterious notion, we offer the combination of complete freedom of personal creation with the deepest possible commitment that creators may have to the world they create and to the characters in the story they wish to tell. This is a totality of endeavor, combining the personal unique outlook with others existing in an elusive and ever-changing reality -and all of this while trying to shape a world and reveal the soul within it. This is our great challenge as we seek to create our path in the creative studies of the audio and visual arts in the third millennium, and we invite you to join us in this challenge.
Prof. Avner Fainguelerent
Head of the Audio and Visual Arts School, Sapir Academic College