“I realized that there are some wonderful Israeli films that never get distributed in the U.S.,” Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg said the films being shown in the U.S. deal with either the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or with the Holocaust.
“I felt that Israel documentary cinema actually approaches many more topics on a wider spectrum,” Ginsburg said.
Ginsburg said he thought it was a pity that these other films were not being seen and decided to work to give them more exposure.
He selects films for the festival based on commercial, critical and award season success. Ginsburg was able to secure access to the films by working with the Israeli Documentary Filmmakers Forum.
“I think the discussion of Israel and the Middle East in general is one-dimensional, it lacks nuance and is in many respects uninformed," Ginsburg said. "So what I am trying to do is to create a more informed discussion about the region in general and Israel in particular. I am not really interested in whether people are for Israel or against Israel. I think neither side is informed enough.“
Ginsburg said it is impossible to understand what is going on in the Middle East without looking at the entire context.
“To look specifically at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — you cannot understand the shape the conflict has been taking unless you look at the entire Israeli society that is economics, education, trends and what have you," he said. "Taking the context out of the conflict means that you do not actually understand it.”
Ginsburg said he wants to display the layers and various pieces at work in the Middle East and to show how global issues, such as human trafficking, are shaped by and shaping Israel and the Middle East.
“Like other places in the world, this is a golden age for documentary cinema and that includes Israel," he said. "I think there are truly wonderful films that are rarely exposed here and very powerful films. And I think that no matter what your politics is they are worth engaging with, talking about and worth being watched and discussed."
The proceeds of the festival will go to maintaining the Chelsea Theater, which has been a nonprofit since 2018.
Emily Kass, executive director of the theater, said the goal of the festival is to break down stereotypes and widen their audience's understanding of Israeli culture and people.
Kass said the Chelsea is a community-based theater hoping to reach younger audiences at universities in the area. She believes the festival gives people the chance to see something they can’t see elsewhere.
Tickets to the movies are $10 to the general public, $8 for Chelsea members.
“Someone came from Virginia the other day because he wanted to see a film that wasn’t playing anywhere near where he lived," Kass said. "People will come to see something that they can’t see elsewhere.”