Almost two years since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, there have now emerged unprecedented opportunities to bring films from the Film Collection to the small screen in many homes all over the globe.
Over the past decade, Yad Vashem's Online Film Catalog has encouraged the public to view any number of its 13,300 registered films – from documentary pieces and original footage to witness testimony and blockbuster movies – all with a connection to the Holocaust.
Since it opened its doors in 2005, the Yad Vashem Visual Center has acquired the copyright for many more films, and made approximately twenty films available annually for public screenings for a variety of Yad Vashem activities, including educational activities, memorial days and other commemorations, the "Yad Vashem Film Club," and seminars and conferences in Israel – reaching some 4,500 viewers per year.
During the first year of the pandemic, as a result of frequent lock downs, the demand for online screenings rose sharply, so that by the end of 2020, 33 online screenings had been organized by the Visual Center for Yad Vashem's multifaceted audiences worldwide: teacher-training seminars, film festivals, academic conferences, the general public, survivor organizations and more. This trend gained momentum in 2021, so that by year's end, 43 online screenings had been held, many of them featuring a lecture or discussion before or after the screening.
"The years of lockdowns have left cinemas empty, so that many film distributors who in the past had not wished to release their films online, for fear that their rights would be violated, began to make use of the many streaming platforms," explains Visual Center Director Liat Benhabib. "During this time, viewers became accustomed to a different mode of content consumption, and learned to take advantage of 'Pay Per View' or 'Video on Demand' platforms. New viewing habits developed, so that when the cinemas re-opened, a large segment of the public continued to take advantage of the opportunity to access content in the comfort of their home, at whatever time of day or night, without having to deal with complicated logistics or to risk possible exposure to the Coronavirus. This option continues to be the preferred one, meaning that this mode of film viewing has changed irrevocably. Making historical context and facts accessible by means of pre-screening lectures, conferences, and similar online events, together with the unique home cinematic experience, have become the norm today for meaningful content consumption and forging connection to community."
The significant growth in the needs and demands of the many audiences in Israel and abroad that use films for commemoration, learning, enhancing culture and identity, as well as promoting general interest became an opportunity for Yad Vashem to offer content that corresponded to the demands of a wide variety of audiences. As a result, during 2021, more than 8,000 viewers worldwide – including France, Germany, Australia, the United States, Canada and of course Israel – participated in virtual screenings organized by the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. However, concludes Benhabib, "the goal of this programming is not in the number of participants it reaches: rather, it is the ability to make knowledge about the Holocaust accessible, 80 years later, by means of cinema, to audiences who do not necessarily know or learn about this critical event in our not-too-distant past."
The Yad Vashem Film Catalog was established with the generous support of Holocaust survivor Avraham Harshalom.