Poland demands return of $55,000 grant after documentary filmmaker Dani Karavan fails to censor it

An award-winning Israeli filmmaker is being forced to return a grant to the Polish government, after refusing a request from the country’s film institute to censor scenes from a documentary that touched on the subject of the Holocaust.

Barak Heymann received a grant of NIS 188,000 ($55,000) from the Polish Film Institute to produce High Maintenance, a film about the life of sculptor and Israeli award winner Dani Karavan.

The institute wanted a project Karavan was working on, dedicated to Poles who helped Jews during the Holocaust, to show them in a positive light.

“I knew [Karavan] was going to do some work in Poland, I didn’t know it was so controversial,” Heymann told Channel 12 in a report that aired Sunday.

“If they use my work to cleanse themselves of the crimes they have committed, it would hurt me a lot and upset me a lot. I wouldn’t even forgive myself for getting into this story at all,” Karavan said in the film, shot in 2018, apparently referring to the Poles.

Issues of Holocaust restitution and revisionism have repeatedly plagued Polish-Israeli relations. Poland has repeatedly worked to deny and downplay Polish involvement in the Holocaust, despite historical evidence to the contrary, prompting outcry from Israel.

The institute did not watch the film for two years after receiving a copy, according to the report. It was only after it was officially released and after winning several awards that the institute looked at it and asked Heymann to censor certain scenes from the film or return the grant to him.

“The Poles will not allow me to make a film with their money that reveals a painful, embarrassing and traumatic truth to them,” Heymann told Channel 12.

The filmmaker initially agreed to make minor edits to the documentary and flew to Poland for a screening with the film institute.

“After half an hour, the director of the Polish Film Institute got up [from his seat] angry, began to rage and get angry, turned off the projection and said, “Get out of here!” I believe in free speech, but your film is hate speech,” Heymann said.

Denying their demands, Heymann must now return the sum, and launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise money. By Monday, the campaign had hit 161,600 NIS ($47,000) out of the 188,000 NIS target.

File: Israeli sculptor artist Dani Karavan poses for a photo at the Knesset on July 11, 2013. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Karavan, known for his memorials in Israel and around the world, died last year at the age of 90.

Perhaps his most notable work in Israel is the huge mural sculpture decorating the plenum of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, named “Jerusalem, City of Peace”.

The wall depicts an abstract landscape of Jerusalem, the surrounding hills and the Judean Desert. The project was commissioned in 1966 and lasted eight months.

His many works in Israel include Habima Square in Tel Aviv, “Ohel” at Sheba Medical Center, “Kikar Levana” in Edith Wolfson Park in Tel Aviv, the monument to the Negev Brigade near Beersheba, and the “Path peace” near the Israeli border. with Egypt.

Join our Israeli culinary experience!

Israeli cuisine is taking the world by storm. Here is your chance to participate…

The Times of Israel community is thrilled to present its new virtual kitchen series, B’teavonwhere world-renowned chefs show you how to prepare classic and modern Israeli dishes.

Learn more Learn more

Already a member? Log in to stop seeing this

You are a dedicated reader

That’s why we started The Times of Israel ten years ago – to provide discerning readers like you with must-read coverage of Israel and the Jewish world.

So now we have a request. Unlike other media, we don’t have a paywall in place. But since the journalism we do is expensive, we invite readers to whom The Times of Israel has become important to support our work by joining The Times of Israel community.

For just $6 a month, you can help support our quality journalism while benefiting from The Times of Israel WITHOUT ADVERTISINGas well as access Exclusive content only available to members of the Times of Israel community.

David Horovitz, founding editor of The Times of Israel

Join our community

Join our community

Already a member? Log in to stop seeing this