Here is a selection of some of my favorite short dramas, all produced during the last decade, about the women of Israel – Jews and Arabs, secular and ultra-orthodox, including rape, family honor, the conflict, settlers, Ethiopians, coexistence and even one animated film.
Directed by Alamark Marsha
2008, 25 min.
This drama provides a look at the position of women in traditional Ethiopian society by portraying a woman who is unable to break out of the bonds that her marriage imposes upon her. In loving close-up, we watch every step as Mulu prepares Ethiopian bread. She is already a grandmother and discovers that she is pregnant again. One of her grown daughters tells her that she has enough children – but Mulu won’t listen to her. The same daughter wants her mother to sell her handicrafts and maybe even get a job. But Mulu’s husband is unable to cope with such changes in his world. He takes all of his wife’s woven baskets off the wall, down to the street, and lights a bonfire. Watching him from the window, Mulu does not stop him. This is her life and she knows that she cannot change it. But we know that her daughters already live in a different world.
Available from email@example.com
Directed by Michal Abulafia and Moran Somer
2010, 10 min.
This is an animated feminist fable. Fortuna is an old lady who waits in her wedding gown for her husband, who died on their wedding day. Her next-door neighbor, Marcela, the servant of Rabbi Toledano, is even older and is awaiting death to come and take her away. One is waiting to live her life, the other is ready to end it. About broken promises and growing old.
available from: Bezalel academy of art and design, Jerusalem
Survival and the Art of the Joystick
Directed by Tsipi Houri
2002, 4 min.
Two sisters are riding on a road in the West Bank, on their way to visit their parents in Beth-El. One sister is experiencing more fear than the other. She says that riding along the road is like playing a computer game – either we’ll get there or we won't. She finds the landscape threatening, everything that she sees screams danger to her, she finds something to be afraid of hiding behind the trees and around each curve in the road. When they arrive at their home, there is fear there too since now they must lock the door. The other sister, who still lives at home with the parents in Beit El, says, you are part of the cult of fear, you can be blown up in Tel Aviv also. Two sisters who seem to be very different from each other.
From the series: Moments 2002, available from the National Center for Jewish Film at Brandeis University
Cohen's Wife (Eshet Cohen)
Dir: Nava Heifetz-Nussan
2000, 24 minutes
A hard-hitting drama about how ultra-orthodox Judaism deals with the rape of a Cohen’s wife. Even though a man who is a "cohen" must divorce his wife if she is raped, this film shows that even this can be interpreted with flexibility and compassion.
The young neighbor, Hannele, is witness to the rape. She is an interesting image – perhaps an image of naivety standing and watching. She symbolizes both knowledge and innocence. She is also witness to the reconciliation at the end.
At the end of the film, the husband returns to his wife, happy that the rabbinic court has permitted him to stay with her. But the woman looks at her husband at the end of the film with sadness. Why is she sad? Because no one has dealt with her trauma, helping her to come to terms with what happened. In fact, the rabbinic court’s “liberal" and "flexible” interpretation of the law has stifled or even denied her experience. Also, perhaps she is sad because her husband even considered leaving her, if need be. Rather, he should have stood up and declared that he wouldn’t turn her away, especially in her time of need.
So, this is a good ending – the court permits them to stay together and she has to forgive her husband for his wavering – instead of him having to forgive her for being impure and for being "guilty" of being raped. He begs her for forgiveness for his silence.
Available from Ma'aleh Film School
Available on streaming from Oomanut
Directed by Lily Sheffy
2008, 5 min.
Two women are at a bus stop – both wear black scarves, both are carrying vegetables from the market, both seem weary. When the tomatoes fall all over the ground, and both women stoop to pick them up, a conversation begins. The ultra-orthodox Jewish woman is interested in tomatoes bought from an Arab vendor because this is the shmita or sabbatical year and she is not permitted to buy fruits and vegetables from a Jewish vendor. She offers her tomatoes to the Arab woman. The Arab woman tries to pay for them and slips some money into the other woman’s bag. Right away, a Jewish man comes running. Having caught the Arab woman with her hand in the other’s bag, he is ready to accuse her of stealing. When matters are straightened out, the two women share pictures of their sons – one is called Ibrahim and one is called Abraham. The film -- a chance encounter on a Jerusalem street between two very different, yet similar women, each with a son whom she loves – puts a human face to the conflict.
Part of the Jerusalem Moments project 2008 -- Available from Ir Amim
Dir: Dana Keidar
2010, 24 min.
Nadin is an Arab girl, preparing to be married. Her mother is making her a beautiful wedding dress. At a fruit picking and packing center, she picks berries with her friends and embarks on a sweet love affair with Shahar, the Jewish foreman. Her red nails are like the red berries, blood red, like the blood on her panties when she first sleeps with Shahar, the red of passion. Since she is about to be married, her girlfriend at work pushes her to go to a Jewish doctor to have her virginity restored. As planned, she marries her intended, a boy she doesn't love. A small slice-of-life in the Arab community.
Available from the Sam Spiegel Film and TV School, Jerusalem.
"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.