Sigal Yehuda, producer at Greenhouse: The filmmakers are talking about real issues – social, personal and political.The Mediterranean region is a popular travel destination, but most of its culture, conflicts and stories won’t fit in a Club Med brochure. Helping to expose the unique stories, cultures and landscape of the Mediterranean is Israel’s multinational film initiative Greenhouse.

Convening in Istanbul, Turkey earlier this month, Greenhouse gives regional filmmakers, who might not otherwise have the opportunity, the tools and support to be able to tell their stories through documentary film.

Conceived by Israeli filmmaker David Fisher, Greenhouse and its European Union partners have been providing financial backing, seminars and networking opportunities so that young filmmakers from Mediterranean countries can develop professional studio-quality films. And in effect, tell their stories.

Open to about a dozen projects a year from 10 countries including Tunisia, Lebanon, Morocco and Israel, loftier goals such as world peace are also part of the agenda.

“A Tunisian filmmaker arrived to Istanbul last January, and told us that he was surprised to see Israeli and Palestinians would actually talk to each other,” Sigal Yehuda, Greenhouse’s producer, tells ISRAEL21c.

There is a lack of knowledge about the situation in Israel and the region in general, explains Yehuda, who notes that despite the political problems, there are ongoing and fruitful collaborations between filmmakers in Israel and the Palestinian Authority, and with Israel and the Arab world.

The Greenhouse helps build on these existing relationships and foster new ones: “These people after working with us, do keep in contact,” she says. “We are not only about making films, but creating the infrastructure in the region and outside of it, so they can collaborate in the future,” says Yehuda.

The Greenhouse, founded in 2006, is currently collaborating with film festivals and organizations in the region and the reception of the projects has been positive, reports Sigal.

Consider the film, Not Quite the Talibans, by Fadi Hindash. The Jordanian-Palestinian tells the story of a young man’s frustration with hypocrisy in Dubai, where he was living.

For some filmmakers, says Sigal, a project with the Greenhouse is the first time people from this complicated region are sitting together and telling their stories: “They are talking about real issues – social, personal and political,” she says.

Israel is considered one of the world’s best producers of documentary films. Its two leading film schools, The Sam Spiegel School Film and Television School in Jerusalem, and the Department of Film and Television at Tel Aviv University, continue to produce that nation’s top talent.

Sigal thinks that Israel is a hot spot for filmmaking because of its film schools and the fact that there is an Israeli law to support film. But also, she adds, there seems to be a never-ending source of raw material that sprouts out of conflict.