Gil Alkabetz, award-winning filmmaker and one of the most accomplished Israeli animators of all time, has died at 64.
The sad news was confirmed on Alkabetz’s Facebook page over the weekend. According to the account, Alkabetz had depression and took his own life.
Alkabetz was born in 1957 in the Kibbutz Mashabei Sade, Israel. He studied graphic design at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem where his graduation short Bitzbutz (1984), a three-minute gem in black and white, earned him early notoriety abroad.
In 1991, Alkabetz released his second short Swamp, a satirical look at the idiocy of war. The film won the jury prize at that year’s Ottawa International Animation Festival.
In 1995, he relocated to Stuttgart and spent time working at Studio Film Bilder on commissioned projects for broadcasters including Nickelodeon and MTV. That same year, he also released the minimalist short Yankale (1995), a non-linear story about a man who flees his helicopter mom.
Shortly after that, Alkabetz enjoyed a career high point when Rubicon premiered in 1997. One of the most successful films from his oeuvre, it was selected for the Cannes Film Festival that year and toured the world, winning numerous prestigious awards along the way. The film presents viewers with a famous riddle but then refuses to provide the answer, opting instead to offer a healthy dose of humor.
Alkabetz’s best-known short is 2005’s Morir de Amor, turning on two birds in a cage singing songs about the past. The film played in competition at several of the world’s biggest film festivals including Annecy, Hiroshima, Krakow, Leipzig Dok, Tallinn Black Nights, and the Ottawa International Animation Festival.
Other films from Alkabetz’s illustrious career include Travel to China (2002), Trim Time (2002), Ein sonniger Tag (2007), Wollmond (2009) The Da Vinci Timecode (2009), 1+1 (2015), One Stormy Night (2019), and Good and Better (2020).
Aside from the work he did on his own films, Alkabetz handled animation design on Tom Tykwer’s classic German film Run Lola Run in 1998. The feature was nominated for a BAFTA and remains one of the most visually and conceptually impressive action films of its generation.
Alkabetz’s funeral services will be held in Stuttgart. A public virtual memorial service is also being planned, with details to come.
When the news of Alkabetz’s passing first went public, the global animation community responded with overwhelmingly fond remembrances of the artist and the man.
Joanna Quinn, the two-time Oscar-nominated director of Famous Fred (1996) and Affairs of the Art (2021), took to Twitter to mourn the loss of a respected contemporary:
Bitzbutz 1984 is the grad film of the wonderful Gil Alkabetz, an extremely gifted artist & animator who sadly passed away yesterday. I loved this film.
What a talented lovely man he was & a great loss to the animation community
Simon Wilches Castro, animator and creative director at Titmouse, called Alkabetz’s work inspirational:
Gil Alkabetz has passed away. His films were true inspiration. RIP
Israeli animator Tal Kantor recalled the tremendous influence that Alkabetz had on her early career, and remembered the man as “a very sensitive, honest, humble, attentive, and wide-hearted person.”
And Feinaki Beijing Animation Week creative director Yantong Zhu shared a lovely post about her experiences with Alkabetz over the years.
Pictured at top: Run Lola Run, Gil Alkabetz, Morir de Amor