Between Both Worlds

Published: April 25th 2010
in Culture » Movies

Igal Hecht
Pic: Igal Hecht
Igal Hecht with cameraman Lior Cohen
Pic: Igal Hecht
The Story of Furious Pete official poster
Pic: G.I. Productions

For more than a decade, Toronto filmmaker Igal Hecht has been a regular on Toronto-Tel Aviv flights, as he spends much of his time in Israel making documentary films about Israel, its people, and yes, even its politics. Shalom Life sat down with Hecht recently in order to find out how he got started, what he has done, and what he plans on doing in the future.


Born in Israel, Hecht moved to Toronto with his family when he was 11 years old. His Hebrew is still fluent, and he attributes this to his obsession with the Hasamba series of books (an Israeli series of adventure novels for children). He has collected all the books in the series and whenever he is in Israel, he will spend some time and money acquiring copies of the books. He continues to read all types of Hebrew literature and thus preserves his Hebrew, not to mention his regular trips to Israel for the purpose of his films, which naturally also help him in staying fluent.


At the age of 13 he got his first video camera as a Bar Mitzvah present from his parents. Ever since then, he has barely put the camera down. “At first I didn’t think I’d get into filmmaking so intensely,” said Hecht. “I’ve always enjoyed reading and telling stories, and history. I’ve also always loved politics, so somehow everything came together and the ball got rolling.”


Hecht’s career got a start when he volunteered for a local television station for a few years. He later left that station and returned to filmmaking when he went into academics. “At first I didn’t know what I wanted to study, but then I said to myself, ‘I love movies, let’s get back into that’,” said Hecht. “From there things started happening. I was actually kicked out of the first college I attended, because I wasn’t a very good student,” he laughs.


In 1999, while still a student, Hecht formed his company, Chutzpa Productions. “There were specific films I wanted to make, but no one gave me the opportunity, so I said to myself that if no one wants to give me an opportunity, I’ll just do it myself,” explained Hecht.


Although his documentaries are well-known today, Hecht disliked the genre when he first began his career and focused on narratives instead. The stories in his first films were fictitious, yet they were largely based on things Hecht read in the newspapers and had a Jewish theme. “Looking back now, I realize that even back then my love for Israel showed through those first films,” he said.


The big break came in 2003 with Y.I.D., a documentary which outlined the complex relations between Canadian-born Jews and Israeli Jews who immigrate to Toronto. “Y.I.D. did something that no other film did, particularly within the Israeli community,” said Hecht. “I’m told that it even changed policies within certain organizations and even changed the attitude towards Israelis.”


After Y.I.D. things began to happen for Hecht, and that was when he decided that Chutzpa Productions would focus only on issues relating to Judaism and Israel. For the first year or two he focused mainly on Judaism and not on Israel, but beginning in 2004, he began to heavily focus on Israel, with the Qassam rocket attacks on Sderot being the trigger. He then filmed Qassam, which told the story of the people of Sderot, who were living under the threat of rocket attacks. Since then, Israel has become a major focus of his work. He flies to Israel at least once every three months to film there.


Related articles: (igal hecht, chutzpa productions, g.i. productions, furious, pete, films)

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