Toronto filmmaker has a lot of chutzpah

Igal Hecht

Filmmaker Igal Hecht received his first camera from his parents at his bar mitzvah. Since then, his passion for making films has only increased, and he has managed to create a successful career out of what his parents initially called, “a hobby.”

With a long list of films, mostly documentaries from a myriad of different genres and a great deal of awards, it seems that Hecht is the only person who can get away with calling his company Chutzpa Productions and still be taken seriously.

Born in Israel to Russian-Ukrainian parents from Lviv, Ukraine, Hecht moved to Canada when he was 11 years old. Although he grew up in the Bathurst-Steeles area, where he was surrounded by a large population of Russian Jews, Hecht does not consider himself to be particularly “ruski.”

Instead, he sees Israel as his home and it is the setting of a lot of his films, many of which cover all sorts of political, societal and cultural issues in the country.

“What I love about Israel is that someone like me can fly for 12 hours, land in Israel, and start filming,” said Hecht, in a speech he gave at the Limmud FSU conference in March 2017.

While he has had problems entering other Middle Eastern countries to film, Hecht says that Israel’s “vibrant democracy” is what allows him to film and document almost anything in the country without any problems.

“I’ve known foreign journalists who just came, Canadians for example, and didn’t have to do any paperwork, they left Ben Gurion Airport and started filming. It’s that simple, it’s how a democracy works and that is how Israel works, and that is really something that should be celebrated because in the entire Middle East, you cannot do that,” he said.

Other than military installations and a few specially restricted areas, Hecht has filmed all over Israel, including in Judea and Samaria/West Bank and in Palestinian territory. He has been able to highlight issues in Israel and the Middle East that are often overlooked by a lot of other media outlets, especially those in the foreign press.

“I always call Israel a First World country with many Third World situations. It’s challenging. There are things that make you angry, but it is great for storytelling.”

Other than political and social issues in Israel, Hecht has made films and television shows about jazz and folk music, wrestling, women’s rights and First Nation rights in Canada, among many other things.

“I don’t really like to pigeon hole myself, I’m interested in everything. There’s a wide world out there and I think a lot of filmmakers just pick one topic and stick to it, but I involve myself in a very eclectic genre. It keeps things interesting,” said Hecht.

Hecht’s films can be seen on a number of platforms including many Canadian and Israeli television channels, Netflix, and many other online channels.

For Hecht, events like Limmud FSU are crucial, because there have not a been a lot of events that cater specifically towards the Russian-Jewish community. Much like a lot of Hecht’s films, Limmud FSU brings Russian, Israeli, Jewish, and Canadian issues to light and leaves a lot of room for discussion. At the same time, Limmud FSU brings together 700 people annually who share the same background, and urges Russian-Jews to celebrate their culture.

“I think Limmud FSU is very important because it connects the growing Jewish-Israeli-Russian-Canadian community that has been, to some degree, overlooked by the general Jewish community. It brought 700 people together to discuss everything there is to discuss about Jewish life in Canada or around the world, and it’s become a crucial aspect for this community to prosper,” said Hecht.

Due to the nature of his job, Hecht is always working on something new. His future projects include a show about art in Israel which will start airing in the fall and another show, House of God, which will air in Toronto.