Touchdown Israel: American Tackle Football in Israel
Sport has become a world language, a common denominator that breaks down all the walls and the barriers.
- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addressing the Sport for Peace and Development Forum, Geneva 2011
In the epicenter of the Middle East conflict, an aggressive new sport plays out at Kraft stadium in the heart of Jerusalem. Israel’s weekend warriors team up, suit up, don helmets over their kippahs, and charge the field for a season of full-contactAmerican Tackle Football, revealing pieces of themselves and their world along the way. Secular or religious, Israeli-born or not, these Jews, Muslims and Christians are transformed from ordinary citizens into fierce gridiron competitors on a quest for Israel Bowl glory. Providing a unique insight into the incredible religious and cultural diversity that is Israel, the filmmaker intends to profile players, teams, coaches, officials and fans from three teams throughout one playing season as they learn the calls, execute strategies and bond together as a team.
Touchdown Israel explores the fast growing sport of American tackle football in Israel. Started in 1988, American Football in Israel (AFI) has grown to over 90 contact and non-contact flag football teams. In 2005, the AFI established the Israeli Football League (IFL), an offshoot devoted to American-style full-contact tackle football. The league is now sponsored by and known as the Kraft Family IFL. In just five years, the IFL has grown from 25 enthusiastic players in Tel Aviv to a thriving league of over 700 players and 10 teams in a nation roughly the size of New Jersey. Teams hail from each corner of Israel, Nahariya in the north, near the Lebanon border to Be’er Sheva in the South. Gaining in popularity each day, this American import enables die-hard armchair Israeli NFL fans the opportunity to try-out for a team, and play before an enthusiastic crowd. Sports fans, looking for a break from the nationalistic soccer frenzy, benefit from the easy accessibility and family atmosphere of weekly IFL competitions.
Touchdown Israel follows players, coaches, and fans from three teams over the course of Season Five. Hailing from diverse ethnic, cultural, religious, social and political backgrounds, and often new to the sport, players must learn the tactics, and execute the strategies to win the weekly game and rise in the league rankings. The film’s coverage will include pre-season, regular season and playoffs, culminating in Israel Bowl V. Style and Tone Verité footage will form the basis for each scene and will be punctuated by interviews of players, coaches, sports-media, secular and religious community leaders and fans, as well as critics of the sport. The tone of this film may at times swing from inspiring to entertaining to thought provoking. The film will spark debate and leave viewers with a better understanding of how team- sports such as football, create possibilities for personal, social, and political change.
The film’s timeline, marked by rising rankings as the season unfolds, covers the IFL Season Five schedule: pre-season, regular season, playoffs concluding with Israel Bowl V. Stories Touchdown Israel explores the long-term viability of American-style tackle football in a country known for soccer and basketball madness. The filmmaker will explore how players and fans became attracted to this contact sport. In addition, as the Israeli melting pot includes players from a variety of non-Hebrew and non-English-speaking backgrounds, the film will observe how the game is taught. Touchdown Israel endeavors to explore the sacrifices players make for their team as well as their individual motivations. Viewers will decide if football will join soccer and basketball as a top-tier sport in Israel. Perhaps, more important, can football present a model on and off the playing field with the potential of contributing toward the creation of a deeper understanding and unity between Jews, Muslims and Christians in the Middle East. The filmmaker intends to follow three teams, including selected players, coaches, owners and fans, throughout Season Five.
Why Make This Film? Touchdown Israel came about after the filmmaker discovered a New York Times article on the recent phenomenon of American style, full-contact tackle football taking root in Israel. The filmmaker asserts an opportunity exists to explore a possibility that competitive team sports can act as a catalyst in closing the some times bitter divide between Israel’s Jewish, Muslim and Christian communities. Furthermore, Touchdown Israel aims to tell compelling stories about the birth and development of a new sport in an ancient land.
The IFL Commissioners have granted the filmmaker full access and pledged their cooperation as of the writing of this proposal. Initial funding is in hand to begin filming in October 2011. Additional fundraising is necessary to complete successive shoots as well as edit, market and distribute the film. The filmmaker is aggressively pursuing financing opportunities from traditional film funding sources as well as organizations that support peace initiatives, Jewish causes, sports in the arts and interfaith communication. Shooting is expected to wrap in March 2012, with a planned release in October 2012.
About the Filmmakers
PAUL HIRSCHBERGER, DIRECTOR/ PRODUCER
Paul Hirschberger wrote, directed and executive produced The Exchange (2010, NTL Films), a narrative short that screened at several film festivals. The Exchange had a brief theatrical showing in Naperville, IL., and is currently available on a local public cable station. Paul has collaborated on film projects in the Boston and San Francisco Bay Areas. In addition to his work as a director, Paul is writing a feature-length narrative screenplay “Trouble on The Mountain” and teaches the HDSLR filmmaking workshops at Boston University Center For Digital Imaging Arts.
Franco Sacchi – Filmmaker in residence at Boston University Center For Digital Imaging Arts.
Howard Phillips – Boston University Center For Digital Imaging Arts. Dir. of Media Production. Technical consultant.
Federico Muchnik – Independent Filmmaker specializing in multi-language/cultural learning films.