The scene opens with two sweating men on a beach, swinging paddles at a tiny ball.
“Ping!” “Pow!” “Pong!”
It’s an unmistakable sight and sound for anybody who’s spent an afternoon at the beach in Israel.
Then the Hebrew words for “Just a Minute” (pronounced rock regga) appear on the screen. Now, there’s no doubt about the location.
This 1-minute, 33-second vignette, titled “A Family Business,” is about an Israeli family who makes their living manufacturing paddles used for the popular Israeli beach game, matkot.
It’s the first episode in a YouTube series by Marc Kornblatt, 62, a Madison-based independent filmmaker — and retired elementary school teacher — who is living with his wife in Tel Aviv for the year to be near their two children, both of whom made aliyah.
The first season features 12 shorts shot in Tel Aviv, two for each topic. Subjects include a young woman who plays saxophone and is making a name for herself in Israel; a tattoo parlor; an elderly retired photographer who owns a tiny shop on a Tel Aviv corner; a female mixed-martial artist preparing for a fight, and others.
Each episode is under two minutes and offers intimate glimpses of Israelis living ordinary, rather prosaic lives.
After all, that’s how most Israelis live.
“I want to show viewers that Israel is a land rich with intriguing people who have wonderful stories to tell,” said Kornblatt, via an email interview with the Chronicle. “Israel is so much more than what most people typically read or hear about; namely that it’s a land constantly torn by war, terrorism and religious strife.”
Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle: What gave you the inspiration to make these mini-movies?
Marc Kornblatt: There are two main reasons I came up with “Rock Regga”: I love making movies and I love Israel — I’ve been here well over a dozen times. All the rest is commentary.
Chronicle: Where did you find your subjects?
Kornblatt: Having no budget and crew, I began the project with very modest goals. So, I began with people in my neighborhood, basically a five-block radius from our apartment. Since then, I’ve expanded beyond Tel Aviv, as viewers will see in future episodes.
Chronicle: Did you name the series “Rock Regga” because each episode is under 2 minutes?
Kornblatt: Yes, and I gave the series a Hebrew name because it keeps it closer to my sources. The phrase is an often-heard idiom here where patience — savlanoot — is a precious commodity. Every episode has English subtitles to respect non-Hebrew speakers.
Chronicle: Do you receive funding? If so, from where?
Kornblatt: My teacher’s pension is bankrolling “Rock Regga.”
Chronicle: Did you study film in school?
Kornblatt: No, but I spent a lot of time in the theater and pounded the pavement for six years in New York City as an actor. I’ve written plays. When I became a teacher I began making music videos with the students. That led to short narratives, documentaries and the founding of Refuge Films.
Chronicle: What other projects have you worked on?
Kornblatt: I’ve produced more than 40 films, including feature-length documentaries. I gravitate toward stories that address social justice.
Chronicle: Will you continue “Rock Regga” films?
Kornblatt: Funding or not, I’m hooked. I intend to keep filming until my wife and I return to the States.
To learn more about “Rock Regga” and Kornblatt’s other works, go to RefugeFilms.net.
* * *
Chronicle mini-film festival
Retired elementary school teacher Marc Kornblatt of Madison has been making super-short films in Israel. The Chronicle is posting five of his finest mini-films, at the rate of one film per day, from Feb. 6-10. See them at Facebook.com/WisconsinJewish.