The acclaimed Israeli director, whose short films ‘Rubicon’ and ‘Morir de Amor’ won prizes around the world, was a longtime fixture in the independent animation and international festival universe.
Gil Alkabetz, who for three decades was an enthusiastic and vital part of the world of independent animation, and was arguably the most accomplished Israeli animator of all time, died on September 15, at the age of 65, in Stuttgart, Germany. Alkabetz, who took his own life, is survived by his wife Nurit Israeli and his son Mika, as well as his father, a brother, and a sister.
Born on December 2, 1957 in Kibutz Mashabei Sadeh, Israel, Alkabetz studied graphic design at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem. He graduated with honors in 1983, and his graduation film, Bitz Butz, received awards at numerous international festivals. After working in an animation studio in Jerusalem, Alkabetz became an independent animator and illustrator, and taught at schools in Israel, the United States, Switzerland, and Germany. For the last 30 years, he lived in Germany, where he served as a professor of animation at the Konrad Wolf Film University Babelsberg in Potsdam.
In addition to his best-known films, 2005’s Morir de Amor, which won awards at numerous international festivals, and Rubicon (1997), which screened in competition at Cannes, Alkabetz’s animated shorts include Swamp (1992 – Special Jury Prize, Ottawa International Animation Festival), Yankale (1996), Ein sonniger Tag (2007), Wollmond (2009), Der Da Vinci Timecode (2009), One Stormy Night (2019), and Beseder (2021). Notable among his commissioned projects were his collaboration with the director Tom Tykwer on animation clips for the acclaimed feature film Run Lola Run, and his design of Bamba’s baby mascot, one of the most well-known animated characters in Israeli advertising.
In a 2016 profile published on AWN, critic and OIAF festival director Chris Robinson said of Alkabetz’s work: “His films – tinged with dry humor – frequently manipulate space and explore the boundaries of narrative as they ponder identity, war and human nature.” Writing about Rubicon, he said, “Here the animator promises to solve an old riddle that, well, paradoxically, he has no intention of solving. Instead, the riddle offers Alkabetz an excuse to play around with space, while cheekily exploring the problematic and often impossible relationship between the theoretical and actual. Oh… and it’s also very funny.”
Alkabetz himself often contended that he couldn’t fully explain where his ideas came from or how he arrived where he did, which of course was part of the fun. Speaking of one of his last films, Beseder, a collaboration with the musician and singer Tova Gertner, which screened in the 22nd Animation Show of Shows, Alkabetz said, “Each of us brought his own personal world, and from the meeting of these worlds the film was born, without any declaration of intent or common concept being formulated… Thus, a kind of reflection on human existence arose quite spontaneously, with a topical reference to the experience of living during the COVID-19 period.”
Funeral services will be held in Stuttgart. A public virtual memorial service is also being planned, with details to come.