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Former Jerseyan tells Israel’s story in ‘minute’ detail
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Former Jerseyan tells Israel’s story in ‘minute’ detail

Filmmaker looking ‘not to spin, but to reveal’

Staff Writer, New Jersey Jewish News

Filmmaker and “Jersey boy” Marc Kornblatt, right, interviews retired photographer Azriel Klar on King George Street in Tel Aviv for Kornblatt’s YouTube series “Rock Regga.” 
Filmmaker and “Jersey boy” Marc Kornblatt, right, interviews retired photographer Azriel Klar on King George Street in Tel Aviv for Kornblatt’s YouTube series “Rock Regga.” 

Got a minute? Marc Kornblatt wants to share his Israel with you. But he’s not interested in Israel through a visitor’s eyes. He wants to show Israel “in all its complexity,” through the varied people he meets on the street: a mixed martial arts expert, someone getting a tattoo for the first time at a local tattoo parlor, a saxophonist, an older man who collects and sells antique cameras, three generations of a family who produce paddleball rackets, and volunteers with a street-side dog adoption organization.

Their stories appear in snippets in “Rock Regga,” Kornblatt’s YouTube short-film series, launched this fall. Each installment is under two minutes. The title, Rock Regga, has nothing to do with music; it’s a direct translation of the Hebrew for “Just a minute.” So far, he’s uploaded the first season of 12 shorts, two for each subject.

Kornblatt, 62, a filmmaker and founder of Refuge Films, is a native and third-generation son of Metuchen — the home he grew up in was technically in Edison, but he identifies as a Metuchenite. His parents and one of his siblings still live in New Jersey, so he returns frequently, although he lives in Madison, Wis. In fact, Kornblatt still considers himself a Jersey boy (he hasn’t even adopted the Midwestern pronunciation of Wisconsin, instead favoring the New Jersey version — the difference is all in the division or elision of the space between the first and second syllables).

He and his wife are spending the year in Israel to be with their two adult children who have made aliya. But Israel is also home for him. He’s made at least two dozen trips, some quick for family events, others involving longer stays, and he wanted to bring the insider’s view to a wide audience.

A retired teacher, former actor, and filmmaker, Kornblatt likens what he is doing to the work of a backyard scientist. “It’s what exists right outside your door if you’re open to seeing it,” he said in a phone call with NJJN. He found nearly all of his subjects within 2.5 miles of his apartment in Tel Aviv.

So far, he has no funding, so he’s doing everything on his own with no crew and almost no budget. As for his perspective, he said, “Right now I’m trying to establish my credibility. I’m not looking to tear down the state. I’m an American, I’m Jewish, and I love Israel. Beyond that, I want to be fair and honest,” he said. 

Nothing is staged, and there are no scripts. It’s just people he meets on the street who are interested in what he’s doing and have stories he thinks he can tell.

But he’s open to taking on more controversial topics, perhaps doing a piece on an Arab translator he met in Gush Etzion who is also a Palestinian activist who might have a different perspective on the region. “As an American, I can go into the territories,” meaning the areas under Palestinian control. “I will go anywhere I can,” he said, adding that the second season may be more controversial than the first. Wherever the project takes him, he said, “I’m not looking to spin; I’m looking to reveal.”

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