If you intend to set up a new Google or Coca Cola, or you have an idea with which to change the world, this film is a must for you. Eyal Halfon’s Family Chemistry follows three years’ development of a family business based on a revolutionary method of producing sugar out of wood pulp. We’ve asked director Eyal Halfon how the story of the Baniel family continued.
The start-up founded in Israel by the 92-year-old professor of chemistry Avram Baniel and his 70-year-old son Eran, who had made his living as a theatre manager until then, – that is, as one investor puts it in the film, “a rather unusual team even for an unusual start-up.” But it worked. Even Vinod Khosla, who had helped Google or Amazon at a time when they still worked from the “garage” was convinced to invest in the project by the idea that it is possible to industrially produce sugar from wood.
The documentary Family Chemistry presents an Israeli family’s journey towards their big dream. Most of all it resembles a crazy roller-coaster ride. Hope alternates with disappointment, while big money sharks are sniffing around the family business. What do you need to do to change the world, and what sacrifices do you have to make?
The documentary revolves around the year 2011 when the Israeli company HCL Clean Tech transformed into the American firm Virdia. Do you think that the Baniels managed to fulfil their “modest” aim, that is to change food and energy industries thanks to the method of producing sugar from wood pulp?
No, they did not.
Did you personally stop being interested in the story of the Baniel family with the completion of the film, or do you still follow their stories? How are they and what do they do now?
I moved on, to a new project (i’m a feature film writer director and haven’t made documentaries for some time). The Baniels? Not sure.
What is the situation in Israel regarding start-ups based on clean technologies? Is HCL Clean Tech unusual in its success, or is it one of many that have succeeded?
HCl was not a successful story after all. and i dont know enough about other clean tech start ups. It is not israel prime area of new start ups.
(LSSF note: Originally a family firm, HCL Technology changed owner in 2011 and transformed into Virdia. In 2014 Virdia was bought at the price of USD 62 million by a Finnish company Stora Enso which works in waste treatment and paper production. The aim of the acquisition is the support of the development of the central idea behind the production of sugar from wood pulp.)