"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel", is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

My next speaking tour to North America will be in October 2015! Contact me if you are interested in my speaking in your community. My contact info: amykronish@gmail.com

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

The Director's Angst - a new film by Dan Wolman

Readers of this blog already know that Dan Wolman is one of my favorite Israeli filmmakers.  His filmmaking can be characterized as humanistic and independent.  I loved so many of his feature films -- Hide and Seek, The Distance, Floch, Foreign Sister, My Michael, Valley of Fortitude, and more.
His most recent film, The Director's Angst, is quite different from his other films in both subject matter and genre.  According to author Amos Oz, It is a "heartbreaking film and sometimes so funny that it will bring you to tears.  There are unforgettable scenes and original and surprising cinematic ideas."  According to Wolman himself, the film is quite "offbeat". 

The film portrays a filmmaker who is attending the premiere screening of his first feature film called "The Surgery", and we have the opportunity to see bits and pieces of his film as he is hovering nearby, walking the halls, and flirting with the box office manager.  His film-within-a-film provides a surprisingly hard-hitting political satire of contemporary Israel, something that is not so obvious in most of Wolman's previous films (most of his other films are social commentary rather than political).  There is an interesting romantic sub-plot, some very biting dialogue, and a futuristic vision of a militaristic nation constantly at war. An underground group forms to take matters into their own hands and to change the course of things in their land.

It is worth catching this unusual and extraordinary film which is especially critical of the current Israeli political reality.  A strong satirical statement, The Director's Angst  (83 minutes, 2015), is available directly from the director/producer/scriptwriter, Dan Wolman (danwol@zahav.net.il).

Monday, August 17, 2015

Leaving the Ultra-Orthodox World Behind

Apples from the Desert, directed by Matti Harari and Arik Lubetzky, is a modern morality tale. 

Rivka is a 19-year-old girl from a Jerusalem haredi (ultra-orthodox) family.   She is a rebellious daughter, interested in seeing the world, making a difference, and not just marrying and having children.  Her strictly religious, Sephardi parents have a love-less relationship and her authoritarian father has a cruel streak.  She finally breaks and runs away when he insists that she marry an older widower with children.  The film is an adaptation of the story bySavyon Liebrecht.  

A wonderful comic element is provided by Rivka's Aunt Sara who is the spinster aunt and has more compassion and love of life than any of the others surrounding her in her ultra-orthodox community where women are judged by the length of their skirts rather than by their good deeds. 

Rivka is helped in her escape by an intriguing young man who raises organic apples in the desert.  He brings her to his kibbutz in the Negev desert, where she slowly comes out of her shell and learns about a more open, tolerant and accepting world.  We watch as she blossoms, much as the apples growing in the desert climate.   

In this story about how an ultra-orthodox young woman breaks from her cloistered and traditional family life and chooses to live a secular, modern lifestyle, we learn about issues of family, tradition, love, compromise and acceptance.

Apples from the Desert was produced by United King Films.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Moral Dilemmas

Last night I went to see Tubianski, an historical drama by Riki Shelach. Shelach works mostly as a film producer.  He directed the feature film, The Last Winter, 1982, which I very much liked. 

This is a fascinating drama about a slice of history from the period of the War of Independence in 1948.  Notwithstanding the fact that very little context is provided and the characters are not fully developed, the film offers a window into a certain period, the pressures on a society under siege, and the new Israel Defense Forces in-the-making.  In addition, the film reflects some of the dilemmas and moral issues that faced the nation at that time.

The story revolves around an officer in the IDF, Meir Tubianski, who is seen as a bit of an outsider.  Having served in the British army, he wants to do everything by the book, which is not so easy in the newly developing military framework.  In addition to being in charge of the Jerusalem airport, his civilian responsibilities include working at the Electric Company.  A jealous fellow worker goes to the Jerusalem intelligence branch of the army to accuse him of espionage and the story unfolds as Captain Tubianski is accused of betraying his country in a hastily convened military kangaroo court. 

Based on a true story from 1948, Captain Tubianski's wife wrote to Prime Minister David Ben Gurion himself, who, a year later,  had him fully exonerated and buried in a military burial on Mt. Herzl.  

You might want to check out my husband's post on TheTimes of Israel to get a more fully developed look at the context. 

Tubianski is a feature film,  75 minutes, produced by United King and Reshet TV.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Teaching Our Children that They Can Make a Difference!

This week I went to the movies to see an Israeli comedy made for children.  The movie theater was filled with elementary school kids.  My grandchildren aren't old enough -- so why did I go?  Because recently I was asked to research Israeli films that would be appropriate for Jewish elementary schools and middle schools in the U.S.  This one fits the bill!
Guavas, directed by Kobi Machal, is a comedy for children with lots of singing and dancing, on a surprisingly high and professional level.  The film mixes talented young actors, singers and dancers with muppets (in the Sesame St. style), a fair amount of foolishness, and good-natured slapstick.   

The story is about a 12-year-old girl named Billy who moves with her parents to a small town populated with all sorts of weird characters, including the muppet janitor of her apartment building, the over-the-top hair stylist, the evil and manipulative municipal worker, and Billy's new friend -- the nephew of the head of the town council.

Billy is a real heroine, helping the town's citizens organize against the destruction of the guava tree on her street.  Although this is a film for children, there are political overtones, making fun of urban planning issues and municipal workers interested only in their own self-interest (a breed which is not lacking in this country).   

Confronting the bulldozer that comes to destroy their apartment building in preparation for building a highway through the town, Billy sings, "It's time to make a difference," which is obviously a voice for standing up against bulldozers which destroy homes (specifically Palestinian homes that are built without permits).  She also sings, "change will come from the street", which is a reference to the middle class street protests of a few years ago.  

Guavas is in simple Hebrew and would be great as a Hebrew-teaching tool in Jewish Day Schools! 

No vulgarity.  No nudity.  No violence.

Produced by United King Films. 

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Issues of Identity

A.K.A. Nadia by Tova Ascher is a hard-hitting and effective Israeli feature film which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival this past week.  It is a complex narrative statement about issues of identity, racism and intolerance.  Can we shed our past or our identity the way we shed clothes at the end of the day?  

Nadia is a Palestinian teenage girl whose boyfriend, Namer, is being sent to London (apparently for terrorist activity).  She decides to marry him secretly and follow him to London, where they live separately, due to the dangers of his work.  One day when she is out, her landlady is picked up by the police and Nadia is afraid to return home.  Unable to locate her boyfriend, she eventually finds a job in a laundry, saves enough money and goes to buy a forged passport so that she can return home to Palestine to her mother.  She ends up buying a real passport which belonged to a girl who, together with her entire family, was killed in a terrible crash.  The only problem -- her new identity is Jewish Israeli.

Fast forward 20 years -- Nadia, now called Maya, is living in Jerusalem, married to a lawyer who is involved in the right-wing government, mother to two teenagers, and works as the director of a dance company.  She is passing as Jewish and tries to keep away from political discussions.  For all intents and purposes, we see a typical Israeli family.  When Maya's past comes back to haunt her we realize that one cannot live forever hiding one's past.  

In a very difficult and tumultuous scene, she goes to see her husband in his office, sitting across the desk from him, as if she is a client coming to seek legal advice, and begs for them to live "as if nothing has changed".  But her husband is  no longer capable of seeing her as the woman he loves.  His eyes see a stranger, an Arab woman. One might have thought that we could transcend such definitions. 
A.K.A. Nadia is a superb film with complexity of plot and narrative tension.  An Israeli-U.K. co-production, the film is available from Two-Team Productions.