The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
The Hon. Alexander Downer, MP
 FORMER MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS, AUSTRALIA

Speech

26 June 2007, Jerusalem Cinematheque - Binyanei Ha'uma

Address at the opening of the 4th AICE Australian Film Festival 2007

Well thanks very much Albert, and can I just acknowledge Minister Avi Dichter, and members of the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange. Distinguished guests and ladies and gentlemen.

Let me begin by saying it's an enormous pleasure for me to be here in Jerusalem tonight. I've been here on two occasions previously and I've often said to people, Jerusalem, for all the political difficulties, is one of the truly great cities of the world that you must see. And I always find it an exciting place to visit. I must say Israel is the most extraordinarily vibrant and constantly changing country. Of all the things you could say about Israel you could never claim that it's a country that is boring.

We are very proud of what Albert Dadon has done in setting up the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange, which, as he just said, he set up in 2002. It was jointly launched by me and the then Israeli Foreign Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu. We launched it by video conference - he in Jerusalem and I was in Australia with Albert and others. I think it's an enormously important initiative because what the Australia Israel Cultural Exchange does is so much more than we politicians could ever do. We have a security relationship of course, we have a political relationship, we have an economic relationship but we need to make sure we have a cultural relationship. The cultural activity of our countries, the artists of our countries, they present to us our own souls, the souls of our countries. And if we Australians can understand more about the arts and the culture of Israel and Israelis can understand more about the arts and the culture of Australia then respectively we will have a richer understanding of each other. I put a lot of emphasis on cultural relations between countries.

Well, here we have a film festival and I think it is fair to say that Australian films are well known throughout the world. The first Australian feature film - some claim one of the first feature films ever made - was made 100 years ago about Ned Kelly, an Australian bushranger. And this feature film was the beginning of a great history of cinematography in Australia. And so here in Jerusalem you are launching, we are launching, the Minister and I are launching a festival of Australian films, and I think that you will enjoy them very much. They are different, they reflect different aspects of Australian life, different challenges that our country has. Some of them reflect the crises that Australians live through in their private lives, as people do in all countries. But I hope very much you will enjoy these films. I think the first film tonight is Jindabyne. It is a challenging film and an interesting film and I commend it to you.

So ladies and gentlemen it's a great pleasure as I said at the beginning to be here back in Jerusalem to participate in the launch of this Australian film festival. And let me just say in conclusion, I think the bonds between Australia and Israel - they are close bonds, they are strong bonds and we want to see those bonds even stronger in the years ahead. And I hope by building a cultural relationship we will be able to do that. So again, a great pleasure to be here and with those few words let me, for my part, declare the festival open. Thank you.