CULTURE Israeli Comics Triumph in Italy

HanukaLavieBy Ada Treves

For the sixth consecutive year, Pagine Ebraiche has participated in Lucca Comics and Games, the international festival that for a few days transforms every year the medieval town of Lucca in a village of games, comics and animation packed with all sort of events, from roundtables to film screenings, from exhibitions to shows.
Hundreds of copies of the November issue were in free distribution together with Comics & Jews, the special section dedicated to the relationship between comics and Jewish identity.

Among the many initiatives, the newsroom of Pagine Ebraiche organized a roundtable devoted to the graphic novel “Jan Karski. The man who discovered the Holocaust” (ed. Rizzoli Lizard). In the Palazzo Ducale, Dario Dino-Guida, from the festival organization, praised the historical and educational value of the initiative, together with historian Luca Bernardini, university professor Giorgio Albertini, who has studied the relationship between comics and the Shoah, Riccardo Moni, curator of the “Jan Karski – Reporter from Hell” exhibition in Lucca, and the authors Marco Rizzo and Lelio Bonaccorsi.

Great interest was also arisen by the presentation of the special section Comics & Jews, which featured, in addition to Giorgio Albertini and the journalist editing Comics&Jews, Emilio Varrà, director of the Bolognese Festival BilBOlBul, the manager of Lucca Comics Giovanni Russo together with Asaf Hanuka and Boaz Lavie.

hanukaBut the big surprise arrived later in the evening: “Because he has been able to describe in a personal ‘graphic diary’ a life that remains ‘normal’ despite everything, thanks to a series of self-contained pages that manipulate the grammar of comics in a sublime way, the Grand Guinigi for the Best Author goes to Asaf Hanuka.”

A few hours earlier Asaf Hanuka was walking towards the place where he would have taken part in the presentation of “Comics & Jews” and looking at the crowd, he explained how he had always been surprised by its success in Italy. He did not yet know that the winner of the major prize, the Grand Guinigi, is be the protagonist of the main exhibition in the next edition of Lucca Comics, and spoke of the award ceremony scheduled for the evening as something that did not concern him at all.
Boaz Lavie, screenwriter for the last work published by twins Asaf and Tomer Hanuka, The Divine, seemed to take it lightly too around: “Think, Asaf, you might have to return to Lucca next year”. Everything seemed so distant, a friendly chat walking through Lucca, in an incredibly hot and sunny day.

But again one of the protagonists of Comics & Jews – distributed in hundreds of copies along with Pagine Ebraiche all over the festival – is the winner of the top prize in the major international festivals devoted to comics. In 2010, it was Walter Chendi, author of La porta di Sion (Edizioni BD), while in 2013 the prize went to Rutu Modan, with The property (published in Italy by Lizard-Rizzoli), who had been the protagonist of both Comics & Jews and of a big interview and who had attended the presentation of the newspaper in a double interview along with the Canadian Guy Delisle.

The following year, Modan had than been the star of the exhibition organized by the Festival, and of a documentary produced by Lucca Comics with the help of the Israeli Embassy in Italy and Pagine Ebraiche, and she was back in Lucca participating also in a workshop organized by DafDaf, the Jewish magazine for kids, for Lucca Junior and the Family Palace.

Generous with his time and thoughts, Asaf Hanuka explained the dynamics of his collaboration with his twin Tomer: “We spent so much time drawing together, until we did our military service… After three years in the army our paths took different directions: Tomer went to New York, where he lived for twenty years, while I spent four years in Paris, before returning to Israel. Working together is natural for us. The Divine is in a way a celebration for our reunion. It is with absolute confidence that we share the tasks and complement each other: I know Tomer is better in visualizing and in creating strong images, while I’m better at storytelling, and I design the structure of the pages. Often I design a page and hand it to Tomer, and I know he will erase a lot of my work, all the faces, for example, and with his intervention the result will be outstanding”.

Two twins, who with their strong artistic tie tell the story of another couple of twins, also thanks to Boaz Lavie, who explained that he is not a comic author. “I do different things: I write, I am a screenwriter for TV, and I am a film-maker, and for me the interesting thing in graphic novels is not to write them, but to write them with Asaf and Tomer.”

The success is huge especially with Italian readers, and it a surprising fact for Asaf: “I have a Facebook page, and I had already noticed that Italians are particularly present. Much more than French, German and Spanish, for example. I do not know why … Perhaps it has to do with something with my being Mediterranean, and Italians recognize themselves.”

Asaf Hanuka was also a candidate for best series award and the protagonist of Comics & Jews 2014, and his third KO in Tel Aviv is expected to be published in January, just in time for the Festival International de la Bande Dessinée in Angoulême. Hoping for another success, as it had been for Rutu Modan, who was on the front page of the Pagine Ebraiche in Lucca, as are today Asaf and Tomer Hanuka, together with Joann Sfar, who had won the Grand Guinigi in 2004.