"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.

amykronish@gmail.com

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Shleikes


Shleikes (Yiddish for suspenders), in contemporary Israeli slang, refers to Tuesday movies which are subsidized by the government for senior citizens. 

Love in Suspenders (Ahava Beshleikes), directed by Yohanan Weller, has just been released in the movie theaters in Israel. It is a romantic comedy, starring Yehuda Barkan, Nitza Shaul and Shlomo Bar-Abba.

Tami is a widow in her 60s and Beno is a widower in his 70s.  She is optimistic, always smiling, and still talking to her husband who has been dead for a few years already.  Beno is tougher on the outside, but also still suffering from the loss of his wife.  Tami and her husband were successful singers so now she lives comfortably in a beautiful retirement home.  He, on the other hand, is finding it hard to pay the monthly rent.  Notwithstanding their differences in lifestyle and personality, and their interfering offspring and neighbors, they eventually fall in love. 

Although light fare, the film, produced by United King, is sentimental, often funny and quite touching! 




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Uncovering a Police Cover-up


Cause of Death, directed by Ramy A. Katz, is a compelling documentary look at a family’s need to know the truth about how their son died.  This is the story of a Druze policeman who gave his life in the line of duty, and his brother who is desperately trying to understand the true story of what happened that day.

The Israeli Druze community is known for its loyalty to the State of Israel and the men of the community serve in the army and the police.  

In March, 2002, during the 2nd Intifada, police Sgt. Major Salim Barakat, died trying to stop a terrorist attack at a Tel Aviv restaurant.  Salim was declared a hero and his brother, Jamal, has been attending annual ceremonies in his memory.

Cause of Death proceeds with suspense and takes us along a journey as Jamal considers all the possibilities.  Even though the police consider his brother to be a hero because he made the ultimate sacrifice in protecting people at that restaurant that day, it is not enough for Jamal and his family.  Jamal feels that the trauma lives on, even after so many years, and he needs to know the truth.


In this photo, we see Jamal carrying his brother’s police records and mementos, to his home in the village of Yarka in the north of Israel. 

Jamal suspects that something is amiss in the story that the police have reported to his family.  Did Salim kill the terrorist?  If so, then who killed him?  Since his brother was dressed in civilian clothing, it was not clear whether he was killed by the terrorist or by an armed civilian who saw an Arab and mistook him for the terrorist himself.  Was the security establishment trying to cover up this flagrant act of racism? 

The film tells a fascinating story, 79 minutes, and is available from Go2Films.


Thursday, March 28, 2019

Menachem Begin’s Political Heritage


Begin: The Leadership Years, directed by Levi Zini, is a fascinating three-part documentary series, produced for broadcast on Israel TV.

Menachem Begin was elected prime minister in May 1977 in what was considered a tremendous political upheaval.  His days in the prime minister’s office and his Likud party changed the face of Israel forever.  Using a wealth of archival materials and many interviews, this documentary series provides a fascinating look at Menachem Begin’s particular brand of moderate politics. 
The first episode deals with his extraordinary vision in making peace with Sadat.  This month, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of that amazing event.  



This episode has already been broadcast on Israel TV.  You can see it here on youtube (no English subtitles).  

Two additional episodes will be broadcast on Israel TV on April 3 and April 10.

My husband was particularly impressed by the two episodes which we saw at the Jerusalem Cinematheque this week.  You can see his article, published today, about this series and about Menachem Begin on the Times of Israel website.

I sit on the joint film fund of the Gesher Multi-cultural Film Fund and the AviChai Foundation and I am proud to say that we provided some funding towards this important documentary series.


Saturday, March 23, 2019

A Film to be Missed


Synonyms by Nadav Lapid recently won the FIPRESCI Award (International Federation of Film Critics) at 2019 Berlin Film Festival.  The jury described the film as “a highly original work with a sharp wit and subtle political message.”  But I disagree.  I found it terribly disappointing, to the point of offensive.  

The film tells the story of a young man who has left Israel and moved to Paris, where he tries to leave his life and his memories behind.  In an attempt to change his identity entirely, he stops speaking Hebrew, and walks the streets of Paris repeating French vocabulary (hence the title of the film).  The opening scene, which explains why he has no “papers”, or perhaps, no identity, provides us with plenty of male frontal nudity – but that’s not enough of a reason to go see a film!  

There is very little story, no complexity, and disappointing relationships.  There are some flashbacks to his military service, but when inappropriate music is played at a military funeral, even I was offended!

Nadav Lapid’s previous films are TheKindergarten Teacher and The Policeman, both of which have been reviewed on this website.



Friday, March 8, 2019

TV Series

It is becoming so common to binge-watch TV series!  I thought I would draw your attention to the following TV series which I recommend --

  • Fauda
  • When Heroes Fly
  • Shtisel
  • Srugim
  • Nebsu

You can read my reviews here!

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Disturbing Film about the Dysfunctional Family


Noble Savage, directed by Marco Carmel, and based on a novel by Dudu Busi, is a new Israeli feature film about a teenage boy living his life within the context of a tough reality in one of the poorest neighborhoods in Tel Aviv known as "Shechunat HaArgazim", "the neighborhood of boxes" where the inhabitants live in very poor and highly improvised physical conditions, with lots of crates and boxes in the back yard.

 Eli is an 11th grade Jewish boy, who is grossly overweight, bullied by the other kids, and a loner.  In addition, he has a totally unstable family life, which is far from normative, even though his mother likes to try to imagine that it is at least somewhat "normative", which is hardly the case. He lives with his divorced mother and her lover, both of whom are recovering drug addicts, obsessed with trying to live a "mainstream" existence, which is actually impossible.  His father, who lives nearby in the same poverty neighborhood, is an alcoholic, an artist, and obsessed with the Holocaust, which complicates the family dynamics even more, and hampers him from relating in a meaningful way to his son, who reaches out to him over and over again throughout the film.

Eli works hard to try to reunite his divorced parents.  At the same time, he is trying to live a regular life, escaping the disastrous and dysfunctional reality that his parents have created for him.  He befriends an attractive new Russian girl in the neighborhood named Anna and together they try to cope with their lives, but Eli is drowning in the complexities and malfunctions of life that surround him, with which he tries to cope.  Throughout the film, Eli must cope with his mother’s fragility of being a recovering drug addict, the abusive nature of the mother’s lover, as well as the poverty, the vulgarity, the violence of this very tough neighborhood, where so many people lead meaningless and lonely lives.

Noble Savage is a hard-hitting film with excellent acting — both from young new actors and veteran stars such as Alon Aboutboul -- which offers a devastating look at what growing up in such surroundings can do to a young man and his severely challenged family.   

Thursday, February 14, 2019

The Aleppo Codex


The Lost Crown, directed by Avi Dabach, documents the story of the Aleppo Codex, better known as the Crown. This is a fascinating film which, like a good detective story, tells a story of intrigue, murder, and even cultural appropriation at the hands of the government of Israel. 



The Aleppo Codex was written on parchment in the 10th century and is the most ancient manuscript of the Hebrew Bible.  Today it is located in the Shrine of the Book at the Israel Museum, but about 200 pages of the manuscript are missing.  The manuscript was kept in the Great Synagogue of Aleppo, which was destroyed in a fire caused during the riots of 1947, following the UN vote on partition. Even though the Crown was rescued from the fire, it is still unclear what happened to the missing pages. 

The filmmaker, the great grandson of the Syrian Jewish man who was the guardian of the Crown, becomes obsessed with the subject and begins to try to solve the mystery of what happened to the missing pages. He interviews Mossad agents, antiquities dealers and historical researchers. He travels to Deal, New Jersey, where he meets members of the tight-knit, vibrant Halabi (Aleppo) Jewish community, who vacation there every summer.  When he returns to Israel, to continue his unrelenting investigation, it becomes clear that we are still in the dark about what happened to these priceless pieces of manuscript. 

This is both a personal quest for the filmmaker and also an attempt at righting a wrong that was enacted in the name of the State of Israel, a kind of cultural interventionism and paternalistic appropriation on the part of officials of the State. 

I loved this film and I was absorbed as the filmmaker works to unravel a 20th century mystery.   You can learn more at an investigative website, which has been produced in cooperation with KAN TV, the Israeli public TV network.

The documentary film, The Lost Crown (60 minutes) is available from the producer, Judith Manassen Ramon, at Micha’s Films.  Watch for its premiere at the Sephardic Jewish Film Festival in New York City in the middle of next month.  Watch the film’s trailer!