"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.


Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ethiopian Jewry – identity, history and absorption

In this posting, I want to share some thoughts on 3 new films, which premiered at the Jerusalem Cinematheque's recent Jewish Film Festival, December 2008 --
I had a Dream
The Name My Mother Gave Me

I Had a Dream is a documentary (2008), directed by Tezeta Germay and produced by Micha Shagrir. The film tells the story of Yona Bogale, born into the isolated Jewish community in Ethiopia, whose life work culminated in Operation Solomon when 15,000 men, women and children were airlifted from Ethiopia to Israel. The amazing part of the film is the authentic and unique archival material, shot on location in Ethiopia. The film was produced by Micha Shagrir who can be reached at his production company, Tapuz.

The Name My Mother Gave Me is a documentary (2008), directed by Eli Tal-El, about a group of Russian and Ethiopian youth in an Israeli leadership training program. The group concludes its year of study with a journey to Ethiopia. They travel to a far flung village in the Gondar region, searching out the village of one of the participants. There, in an emotional scene, they discover an unused and neglected synagogue. Everyone pitches in to fix it up so that they can pray there together.

The Name My Mother Gave Me distributed by Ruth Diskin Films

Zrubavel directed by Shmuel Beru
A feature-length drama, Zrubavel offers sharp insight into the problems and issues of the community of Jews from Ethiopia, living in Israel today. At the premiere screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque's Jewish Film Festival screening, President of Israel Shimon Peres spoke about the difficulties that all groups of new immigrants have experienced in coming to a new country. He expressed his special respect for the immigrants from Ethiopia, descendents of Jews who lived and worked in remote areas, cut-off from the rest of the Jewish people, but always clinging firmly to their traditions. This is a drama of charm, insight, and glaring cultural issues, all seen through the prism of one family. The parents are the immigrant generation -- a father trying to retain his traditional authority over the family and the mother who is trying to straddle both the old and the new. Their children and grandchildren represent an entire scope of issues – the oldest son died serving in the army; the older daughter's husband becomes fervently religious; the high school son is bright but suffers discrimination when trying to transfer into a good school; and the teenage daughter has a chance of becoming a professional singer. The film includes a diverse array of elements – wedding and funeral, police brutality, teen pregnancy, drugs, clash between generations as the father is trying desperately to hold his family together. Zrubavel is available from Transfax Productions

Sisai (2005)
I want to conclude with a few sentences about a documentary produced a few years ago, also on the subject of Jews from Ethiopia--a prize-winning documentary, directed by David Gavro. This is an inspiring film about Jewish identity, relations between father and son, relations to our roots and adoption. Sisai is a 20-year-old Israeli soldier who loves soccer. Together with the filmmaker, he travels back to Ethiopia, to search out his roots and his biological father. This film is available from Hedva Goldschmidt at Go2films.

On the same subject -- take a look at my previous blog postings concerning 3 short dramas about Jewish women of Ethiopian background --
Jephtah's Daughter

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