For Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis, teaching at Penn is just another stop on a lifelong journey that shapes global experiences into successful films.
Riklis, a renowned filmmaker, taught his first and only course at Penn this semester, titled Israeli Cinema.
Riklis believes his interest in filmmaking began as a young child, when he was exposed to movies and television while living in the United States.
“It just kind of stuck with me,” he said. “At some point I realized I wanted to tell my own stories.”
Riklis’ films, primarily set in the Middle East, often deal with politically charged situations. However, he prefers to focus on the “role of the individual within a political world,” telling stories of ordinary people facing the challenges brought by political conflict.
Originally born in Israel, Riklis spent portions of his youth in Montreal, New York and Rio de Janeiro. After attending the National Film and Television School in England, Riklis produced his first film, “On a Clear Day You Can See Damascus.” Since then, he has produced a number of other films, including “Cup Final,” “The Syrian Bride” and “Lemon Tree”.
He said that his experience in other countries gave him the perspective that he has today. While studying at an American school in Brazil, he witnessed the social conflicts of the late 1960s “as an outsider.” That experience taught him “what it is to look at a political situation through a personal prism.”
Riklis’ stint at Penn was made possible by a fund that sends Israeli artists to top American universities. One reason he was attracted to Penn was its location in Philadelphia.
“It’s the right city for me at this stage,” he added, praising Penn’s “huge range of human thought.”
Riklis encourages his students to take advantage of Penn’s wealth of resources as well as its diversity.
“Open yourself up to as much as you can,” he said he often tells his students. He also highlighted being curious and doubtful as a key to success.
Riklis’ latest film was released in Israel last month. Next year, he hopes to begin work on another.
“There’s always something exciting coming up,” he said.
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