Like Israeli literature, and Israel itself, the country’s cinema has been moving away from the overriding political and ideological issues of existence such as war, heroism and ideology, which were part and parcel of the state-in-the-making of the first 50 years. Instead, during the last 10-15 years, Israeli filmmakers have increasingly turned their cameras to personal, humanistic stories -- of love, loss and relationships -- and social issues, such as feminism and homosexuality, assimilation, social alienation and multi-culturalism. These new themes can be seen not in opposition to the political, but rather in adding complexity and humanity to the political. Much of politics in Israel these days focuses on internal domestic social concerns, as in any other mature country, and not only on “foreign policy”.
In addition, the camera has become focused on new subjects -- people who live on the periphery, those who are not part of the mainstream, such as new immigrants, migrant workers and refugees, the elderly, minorities, ultra-orthodox Jews, and those whose socio-economic and geographic situation has alienated them and placed them on the "outside" or periphery of Israeli society. Film has become a vehicle for providing a voice for these underrepresented communities.
At the ceremony of the Israeli Academy Awards or more correctly called the Ophir Awards, just two days ago, film producer Assaf Amir took the stage to accept the award for best film for Fill the Void (directed by Rama Burshtein), and he spoke about the new diversity in Israeli Cinema. If we look at the feature films of just the last year, we can see wonderful examples of this (all of these films have been previously reviewed on this blog) --
- · Fill the Void about matchmaking within the ultra-orthodox community
- · Epilogue (Hebrew title: Hayuta and Berl, directed by Amir Manor) about issues of growing old
- · Sharqiya (directed by Ami Livne) about the Bedouin of the northern Negev
- · God's Neighbors (directed by Meni Yaesh) about those who have become newly orthodox
- · The World is Funny (directed by Shemi Zarchin) about people living in TIberias, the geographical and socio-economic periphery of the country
- · Yossi (by Eytan Fox) about changing views of homosexuality
It is interesting to consider how much “the periphery” or images of multi-culturalism have become the center of Israeli film, and it appears that the periphery may now be “the center”.