"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.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

My Favorite Israeli Films of All Time!!

Available from sources such as the National Center for Jewish Film, amazon.com, amazon.co.uk, jewishfilm.org, jewishvideo.com, the Third Ear, jewishfilm.com, and Netflicks.
Watch for the more recent ones at your local Jewish and/or Israeli film festival
The Most Recent Israeli Films nominated for Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film
  • Beaufort, directed by Joseph Cedar, 2007, based on the bestseller by Ron Leshem -- Very realistic and very powerful film about the absurdity and futility of war, set against the background of the pull-out from Lebanon in 1999.
  • Waltz with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman, 2008 -- Combining animation with full-length documentary, the film examines issues of memory, trauma and guilt that arise during wartime, with emphasis on the night of the Sabra and Shatilla massacre.
  • Ajami, directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, 2009 -- about the meeting place between different worlds. A unique film due to its hard-hitting style, joint direction by a Palestinian and a Jew, and its use of a non-professional cast of characters from the neighborhood of Jaffa where the story takes place, which helped to create an atmosphere of authenticity.
The "Matsav" - the Situation
  • Time of Favor, directed by Joseph Cedar, 2000 - A touching story of young love and a compelling story of the dangers of religious extremism set against the settler movement on the West Bank.

Newly Emerging Images of Women
  • Noodle, directed by Ayelet Menahemi, 2007 – A wise and funny film about a woman, twice widowed, who is afraid of loving again. Appropriate for all the family.
  • Love at Second Sight, directed by Michal Bat-Adam, 1998 -The film tells the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with her search for a man whose image she saw only once. An intergenerational and cultural look at the subject of love, mixing the contemporary period with memories of the past.

  • Song of the Siren, directed by Eytan Fox, 1994 - A romantic and quirky comedy set against the stress and absurdity of the Gulf War of 1991, the film tells the story of an assertive, professional woman. Critical of the superficial lifestyle of the trendy Tel Aviv urban set.

  • Yana's Friends, directed by Arik Kaplun, 1999 - The film, which takes place against the background of the Gulf War of 1991, portrays a variety of quirky characters, many of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and reflects the difficulties of new immigrants in a foreign land.
  • Three Mothers, directed by Dina Zvi-Riklis, 2006 – Complex story of 3 sisters, born as triplets in Alexandria. A film of song and music, of rich detail and stunningly complicated in-depth characters.
  • Aviva My Love, directed by Shemi Zarchin, 2006 -- an authentic film about a woman's attempt to become a writer and break out of the despair of the housing projects of Tiberias, against the backdrop of the beautiful Sea of Galilee.

  • Blind Man's Bluff, directed by Aner Preminger, 1993 - The portrayal of a young, professional woman who must learn to live not only by the expectations of others, but also according to her own needs.

The Dysfunctional Family, Adolescent Angst
  • Passover Fever, directed by Shemi Zarchin, 1995 - An in-depth tapestry of psychological obsessions and the typical dysfunctional family at Passover time, with whimsical optimistic elements.
  • Late Marriage, directed by Dover Kosashvilli, 2001 - About the difficulty of rebelling within the family framework, the film is a very human story of one man still tied to his Jewish mother. The film provides a glimpse into the traditional values and lifestyle of the Jewish community from the Georgian Republic of the former Soviet Union. Includes a love scene of considerable passion and nudity.
  • Broken Wings, directed by Nir Bergman, 2002 - The film is a touching drama about the disintegration of a family living with loss. The focus of the story is on the relationship between the mother and her teenage son and daughter.
  • Someone to Run With, directed by Directed by Oded Davidoff, 2006, Based on the novel by David Grossman -- A story set in the underworld of Jerusalem, a world of drugs and teen exploitation, where two young people are able to make a difference.
  • Turn Left at the End of the World, directed by Avi Nesher, 2004 – the story of the friendship between the daughter of French-speaking Jews from Morocco and the daughter of educated English-speaking Jews from India, all living as neighbors in a desolate development town in the Negev in the 1960s.
  • Secrets, directed by Avi Nesher, 2007 -- a story of the developing relationship between two religious girls, studying at a midrashah (a girls' yeshivah) in Tsfat. A film of great complexity, about love and forgiveness, life and death, superstition and humor.
  • Intimate Grammar, directed by Nir Bergman, 2010, based on a novel by David Grossman – about a boy who is dejected and a loner and who has stopped growing since he is not attracted by the world of adults that he sees around him.
Issues of Gender
  • Walk on Water, directed by Eytan Fox, 2003 - A film about homosexuality, hunting down Nazis, the difficulties that Israeli macho men have in expressing their emotions, and the need for more compassion in our lives.
  • Yossi and Jagger, directed by Eytan Fox, 2002 – The film deals with issues of gay men serving in the Israeli army.
Army Service
  • Late Summer Blues, directed by Renen Schorr, 1986 – A coming-of-age story, the film portrays a group of Israeli youth grappling with high school graduation and preparation for military service at a time of ongoing war.
Arab and Jews
  • The Band's Visit, directed by Eran Kolirin, 2008 – a charming film about human encounter, about loneliness, about Jews and Arabs who pass in the night and reach out to each other, about people who have the opportunity to both give and receive.
  • Lemon Tree, directed by Eran Riklis, 2008 – tells the story of two women, one Palestinian and one Jewish, victims of the chauvinistic societies in which they live, each trying to reach out to the other across the divide.
  • Cup Final, directed by Eran Riklis, 1991 – The film takes place during the 1982 War in Lebanon and explores the themes of male bonding during wartime, the relationship between captor and captive, and the possibility of coexistence in the politically tense atmosphere of the Middle East.
  • Avanti Popolo, directed by Rafi Bukaee, 1986 – A brilliant film which portrays the fine line between the real and the surreal in wartime against the background of the Six Day War of 1967.
  • Beyond the Walls, directed by Uri Barbash, 1986 – Portrays Arab political prisoners and Jewish hard-core criminals living side by side in a maximum security prison. Challenging political and social stereotypes and portraying larger-than-life characters, the film presents a metaphor of Arab and Jew being locked up together, both victims of the conflict around them, condemned to mutual acceptance.
Urban Alienation
  • Life According to Agfa, directed by Assi Dayan, 1992 - The film takes place during the course of one evening in a Tel Aviv pub, a microcosm of contemporary society and depicts a violent nightmare that takes place as a result of society's ills - loneliness, despair, suicide, chauvinism, discrimination, alienation and callous relationships.
  • Jellyfish, directed by Shira Gefen and Etgar Keret (a husband and wife team), 2008 - a quirky and complex film, which is a comment on marriage, memory, alienation in the urban setting, and unfulfilled promises.
Looking Back at the War in Lebanon (1982-2000)
  • Beaufortsee above
  • Waltz with Bashirsee above
  • Lebanon, directed by Shmuel Maoz, 2009 – about the Lebanon War, the viewer experiences the fears, tensions and claustrophobia of the young soldiers within a tank.
  • Kippur, directed by Amos Gitai, 2000 -- the film is a hard-hitting portrayal of the horrors and unrelenting nature of war, and provides the viewer with a visceral experience.
Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust
  • Summer of Aviya, directed by Eli Cohen, 1988 – An intensely human story, originally a one-woman theater production starring Gila Almagor, the film tells Almagor's own personal story, about the shame that she felt as a child, growing up with a mother who was forever tortured by her memories.
And its sequel --
  • Under the Domim Tree, directed by Eli Cohen, 1995 - The sequel portrays the painful struggles of a group of Holocaust survivor youth all living together in a boarding school during the early 1950s.
How we Treat Migrant Workers
  • James' Journey to the Holy Land, directed by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz, 2003 – A na├»ve but religious pilgrim from Africa arrives in the holy land expecting to find milk, honey and the chosen people. Encountering the existential issues of living as an immigrant in a strange land, he quickly adapts and learns how to fit in.
  • The Human Resources Manager, directed by Eran Riklis, 2010, based on A Woman in Jerusalem by A.B. Yehoshua -- An atonement for society's treatment of the foreign workers in its midst. The personnel manager at a Jerusalem bakery learns that one of his employees, a victim of a recent suicide bombing, has been lying in the morgue unidentified for a few days. How could he have missed the fact that she was missing?
Period Pieces
  • Sallah, directed by Ephraim Kishon, 1964 – A fast-paced musical, combining comedy and social satire, the film takes place during the years of the mass immigration immediately following the establishment of the state of Israel.
  • I Love You Rosa, directed by Moshe Mizrachi, 1972, nominated for an Academy Award – A love story played out against the strict religious laws of the late 19th century and against the backdrop of the alleyways of the Old City of Jerusalem. Raises issues concerning traditional Jewish gender roles and the independence of women.
  • They Were Ten, directed by Baruch Dienar, 1960 -- the heroic story of a group of pioneers who settle a desolate hilltop in the Galilee in the 1880s.
  • Hide and Seek, directed by Dan Wolman, 1980 – Set against the background of Jerusalem during the British Mandate period, the film portrays the demands of conformity and loyalty when living in a society under siege. The main character, an adolescent boy, represents the society in formation – a closed society that requires maturity in order to understand that things are not so black and white as they seem.
  • Valley of Fortitude (Gei Oni), directed by Dan Wolman, 2010, based on a novel by Shulamith Lapid – Combining historical narrative with romance, the film is about a woman who arrives in Palestine during the late 19th century and focuses on her strength in the face of much adversity.

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