CULTURE: Cinema

CULTURE: Cinema

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    Filmmaking in Israel has undergone major developments since its inception in the 1950s.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​
  • Courtesy Ma'aleh School of Television Film and the Arts
     
    Israeli cinema
    Photos courtesy Ma'aleh School of Television Film and the Arts
    Israeli cinema

    Filmmaking in Israel has undergone major developments since its inception in the 1950s. The first features produced and directed by Israelis such as "Hill 24 Does Not Answer," and "They Were Ten," tended, like Israeli literature of the period, to be cast in the heroic mold.

    Some recent films remain deeply rooted in the Israeli experience, dealing with such subjects as Holocaust survivors and their children (Gila Almagor's "The Summer of Aviya"and its sequel, "Under the Domim Tree") and the travails of new immigrants ("Sh'hur", directed by Hannah Azoulai and Shmuel Hasfari, "Coffee with Lemon," directed by Leonid Gorivets). Others reflect a more predominant trend towards the present Israeli reality, whether dealing with the Israel-Arab confrontation (Uri Barbash's "Beyond the Walls") or set in the context of universalist, somewhat alienated and hedonistic society ("A Siren's Song," "Life According to Agfa," "Tel Aviv Stories").

    In 2009, the Arab-Israeli film "Ajami," set in an impoverished Arab neighborhood in Yafo, won a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It was the first predominantly Arab-language film that Israel submitted for the award and the third year in a row that an Israeli film won an Oscar nomination.

    A year earlier, Ari Folman’s animated "Waltz with Bashir" reaped international acclaim for its portrayal of the director’s experiences in the 1982 Lebanon War. Awards for the film included the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film and an Academy Award nomination.

    Other notable films of the last few years are Joseph (Yossi) Cedar's "Campfire," about a religious-Zionist Jerusalemite family in the 80s who struggle to re-establish a family dynamic after the death of their father, and "Broken Wings", Nir Bergman's award-winning film that also deals with the aftermath of familial loss and the need for acceptance. "Turn Left At The End of The World" deals with unlikely cross-cultural friendships in an immigrant desert town, and "Aviva, My Love," garnered 10 awards in Israel, Shanghai, and Tokyo.

    Eytan Fox is another noteworthy and popular director. Fox's movies include "The Bubble," which explores contemporary urban life in Tel Aviv against the backdrop of the Arab-Israeli conflict, "Yossi and Jagger" about homosexual love and desire in the IDF, and "Walk on Water." Fox was also the director of the classic "Florentine" TV series (1997), about disillusioned young Israelis living in a shabby-chic Tel Aviv neighborhood.

    Poster of the film "Beaufort", Nominated for an Academy Award as the best foreign-language film
    Poster of the film "Beaufort", Nominated for an Academy Award as the best foreign-language film (Courtesy of the producers of "Beaufort")

    Israeli films garnered many awards in 2007. Joseph Cedar won best director and 11 other prizes at the Berlin Film Festival for his movie about the first Lebanon war, "Beaufort." The movie was also one of five international entries nominated for an Oscar in the foreign-language film category, by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles.

    Director Dror Shaul's "Sweet Mud" took the top prize at Sundance for international features. David Volach's "My Father, My Lord", a film about an ultra-Orthodox family on holiday, won the top prize for  foreign features at Tribeca, and "Jellyfish", directed by novelist Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, received the Camera d'Or award at Cannes.

    Among other surprise wins was "The Band's Visit", Eran Kolirin's film about an Egyptian police band visiting Israel whose members get lost and see an unexpected side of the country. The film won three prizes at Cannes: the International Critics Prize, the Youth Prize, and the Prix Coup de Couer / Uncertain Regard. Israeli actress Hanna Laslo won the Best Actress award for her role in Israeli director Amos Gitai's film "Free Zone" at the 58th Cannes Film Festival in 2005. Other Israeli films and filmmakers have also won international awards in recent years.

    Cinema exports are growing as more Israeli-made films become successful abroad and more dollar-earning foreign and co-productions are filmed on location in the country. The Israel Film Center, a division of the Ministry of Industry, Trade, and Labor, promotes filmmaking in Israel by both local and foreign producers and provides services, from arranging professional contacts to offering financial incentives.

    Such major events as the Israel Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, along with similar events in Haifa and Sderot, combined with Israeli film festivals abroad, all help to promote awareness about Israeli film. 

    Israeli cinema
    Photos courtesy Ma'aleh School of Television Film and the Arts
    Israeli cinema

    The recently renovated Jerusalem Cinematheque consists of an archive of thousands of films, a research library, viewing halls, and exhibition space. It presents regular screenings, often in thematic cycles in cooperation with embassies, cultural institutions, or civic organizations and, when possible, with the participation of the scriptwriter, director, or performers. Since 1984, it has mounted a yearly, non-competitive film festival which has brought many quality films and video productions to the country.

    Educational courses offered for adults are well attended, and programs with Jerusalem schoolchildren encourage critical analysis of a popular medium. There are branches of the Cinematheque in Tel Aviv and the northern town of Rosh Pina. Art house cinemas remain popular in Israel, and the Lev chain offers movies in intimate settings throughout the country.

     The Spielberg Film Archive at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem is the world's largest repository of film material on Jewish themes as well as on Jewish and Israeli life. Run by the university together with the Central Zionist Archives, its main activity is collecting, preserving and cataloguing Jewish films, and making the material available to researchers, film and television writers and producers throughout the world.

     
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