Bio Esther Hertog

I was born in Amsterdam and raised from age 11 to 24 in Israel. Because I grew up in more than one society, I am inclined not to take anything for granted and to question things others accept as normal or inevitable.

In 2002 I moved back to the Netherlands to study Cultural Anthropology at Amsterdam University. My BA student film ‘Ossama’s Dance’, about a gay male Palestinian belly dancer, was screened at international film festivals. In 2008 I graduated MA at Granada Centre for Visual Anthropology at Manchester University. My focus was nationalism, identity & education, related to the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.

After graduation I worked as camerawoman, researcher and editor on films in the Netherlands, the Middle East and Rwanda. During a TV film project in Hebron, some settler kids attacked me. This experience was so disturbing that I felt I needed to investigate Hebron’s radical settlers worldview. In 2009 I travelled to Hebron to make ‘Soldier on the Roof’. It took three years and extreme determination to make this film, which in 2012 was awarded 2 IDFA awards, various international prizes and multiple broadcasts.

While filming Hebron’s settler community I witnessed the difficulties faced by their Palestinian neighbours. I decided to document their experiences. In 2013, together with Paul King, I returned to film ‘Skies Above Hebron’ to tell the other side of the story from the viewpoint of three coming of age protagonists. We participated at GreenHouse seminar 2015-2016 in which we developed the film further. As a result of the seminar Dutch TV broadcaster EO decided to produce the film together with Doxy producers in Amsterdam. In 2017 we received the NPO fund and pitched at the EBU forum in Sheffield.

‘Skies Above Hebron’ has been selected for IDFA Competition for Kids & Docs at the 33rd edition of the International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) 2020 and will be broadcasted on 2Doc IDFA Primeur – EO.

As a visual anthropologist I attempt to “step into the shoes” of my protagonists in an attempt to gain a better understanding of their worldview and capture it from an insider’s point of view.

I direct, film, photograph, research and edit, and between independent films I work for Dutch TV as freelance researcher, producer and camerawomen.

A film can never be totally objective, knowing that, my aim as a filmmaker is anyway to be as objective as possible.

Filmography

2020 | Skies above Hebron | 55’ | Doxy Film & EO | Director, Research, Camera
Skies above Hebron is a coming of age story depicting three boys coping, each in his own way, with physical and mental obstacles enclosing life in their Palestinian hometown of Hebron.

2017 | Uri Avnery From terrorist to warrior of peace | 55’ Sarphati Media | Research, Camera
This film depicts Israeli Peace-Activist Uri Avnery sharing views of goings-on around the World today. With his 94 years and personal experience of being a terrorist, a refugee, a politician & a journalist; Uri offers sharp yet humorous wisdom.

2012 | Soldier on the Roof | 80’ & 52’ | VPRO Tegenlicht & Sarphati Media | Director, Research and Camera
This film captured unique scenes of Hebron’s settlers’ daily life. The TV version was nominated for the BANFF Rockie awards. The 80” version received 7 international prizes including IDFA 2012 Award for First Appearance & IDFA Award for Dutch Documentary, and a ‘special mention’ International prize at Doc Aviv.

2008 | Hope Despair Laughter | 30’ | Director, Research, Camera, Editing
Filmed in the Westbank Deheishe refugee camp, this film shows children’s moments of fun & tension preparing for the final show of their circus summer camp. Selected for several student competitions at international film festivals.

2007  | Ossama’s Dance | 27’ | Director, Research, Camera, Editing
The daily life of a gay Palestinian Belly dancer whom had to start a new life in the Netherlands. This film was selected for students competitions at Beeld voor Beeld, Bilan du Film Ethnographique Paris, 12ª Mostra Internacional do Filme Etnográfico, Brazil.

Researcher & Producer

2019 | Het Israel van Heertje en Bromet – Researcher & Line Producer & 2nd camera in Israel and the Westbank for 8 x 55 minutes TV series with Raoul Heertje directed by Frans Bromet, produced for Witte Geit and NPO2 NTR, planned to broadcast end of 2019

2018 | Natascha’s Promised Land – Researcher & Line Producer & 2nd camera in Israel and the Westbank for a 4 x 45 minutes TV series with Natascha van Weezel directed by Bart Nijpels, produced for Stormy TV and NPO 3 VPRO

2014 | Welkom Thuis – Researcher & Line Producer & 2nd camera & sound in Israel, for a feature length TV film by Director Frans Bromet for Self Made Films & NCRV NL broadcast.

Summery of professional skills

Visual Anthropologist
I am schooled in using ‘Participant observation’ research and filming techniques, (filming and anthropological work from inside a community).

Documentary film director
As film director of short and feature length documentary films, my work has been recognized via major International awards. I work independently on research, concept development, filming & directing, data management and sound on location, directing the edit and postproduction.

Camera & sound operator
I am confident and able to work as a ‘one woman crew’ in conflict area and ‘fly on the wall’ style filming.

Editor
My technical skills include: narrative editing, postproduction preparation, editing short PR movies and long documentaries. Experienced in operating systems including Final Cut Pro, Premiere pro and PhotoShop.

Researcher and Producer in Israël and the Westbank
In research I find all the relevant protagonists, locations, develop the storylines and do the content editing. I brief the producers and anchor on content and information. As a producer I make the film planning, arrange permits, give advice on security measures and line produce the shoot (organise; hotels, airline tickets, catering, navigation, translators, van with driver and anything else needed during the shoot).

Languages
Dutch (native), Hebrew (fluent, written and spoken), English (fluent, written and spoken), Italian (basic) and Arabic (basic).

Driver licence
I did my drivers licence in Israel in 1997 and have lots of experience driving in Middle Eastern traffic. I know how to navigate in Israel, PA area and through Israeli checkpoints.

Education and qualifications

2015 – 2016 Participation in GreenHouse film seminars in Morocco. We developed and pitched our independent documentary “Skies above Hebron’ (previous title ‘Through the Barricades”), director, with co-director Paul King.

2006 – 2007 MA in Visual Anthropology, Manchester University: Studies included topics such as theoretical visual anthropology, research techniques, documentary film-making, camera work, editing and sound recording. I completed my Masters degree with a film titled ‘Hope Despair Laughter’: A circus project in Palestine” based on 2 months of anthropological research in a West Bank refugee camp.

2002 – 2006 BA Cultural Anthropology & Sociology of Non-Western Societies, Amsterdam University: During my studies I focused on subjects related to conflict; nationalism, education, genocide, politics and violence. In addition to the regular program I followed a course in Visual Anthropology at Leiden University, which I completed with a film titled “Ossama’s Dance.”

2001 Nature guide course, Egged Tours, Israel: Guiding course for whole of Israël

1993 – 1996 ‘Art’ high school ‘Wizo Canada’ in Israel: In addition to the regular curriculum, I focused on painting, sculpture and photography classes. I completed high school with honour marks.

Side note

If you happen to google my name you might find lots of pictures of me flying upside down, that is because I am as well an Acroyoga and Family AcroYoga teacher. More info about that: www.flyingacroyogi.com