"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.


Monday, December 10, 2012

Naomi Shemer (1930-2004)

Last night at the Jewish Film Festival at the Jerusalem Cinematheque,  I  had the pleasure of seeing the new two-part documentary series (120 minutes) about the life and songs of the iconic figure, Naomi Shemer.  Produced by  Israel TV Channel One and directed by Yahaly Gat, the series entitled Wind, Darkness, Water is superbly edited, including an extraordinary combination of interviews, songs, unique footage, biographical background, and even an honest look at the controversy surrounding the political influences on her songs.  According to her sister, Naomi  Shemer wanted to be a song-writer for the entire nation.  But with the political polarization brought about mainly by the withdrawal from Yamit in 1982, her songs were hijacked to become a voice of the pro-settlement and pro-occupation ideology. 

Among some of the most famous songs that she wrote which are highlighted in the film are: Jerusalem of Gold (written for a song festival and performed by Shuli Natan just a few weeks before the Six Day War), Lu Yehi (based on the Beatles' Let It Be, written during the Yom Kippur War), The Eucalyptus Grove (about Kinneret, where she was born and grew up), The Two of Us from the Same Village (about the tragic loss of two boys from her class at Kinneret during the War of Independence), and Hevelei Mashiach. The film also mentions her songs for children and many others.

Shortly before she died, she wrote to a friend that she knew that a Basque song heavily influenced her melody for Jerusalem of Gold.  Some controversy arose about this use of some else's music.  However, Jerusalem of Gold remains an undisputed anthem of a glorious period of social and political solidarity which engulfed Israel (and Diaspora Jewry) in the heady period of euphoria after the Six Day War in 1967. 

This extraordinarily sensitive two-part documentary provides a very honest and poignant picture of one of Israel’s cultural icons.  It portrays a complicated and committed person, who deeply wanted to be the singer and songwriter for all of the Jewish People in Israel,  and  who was loved and appreciated by so many people both  in Israel and abroad.  Excellent editing and superb photography (especially of the Galilee in the area of Kibbutz Kinneret ) – as well as interviews with brilliant Israeli academics who study contemporary culture as well as many interviews with Naomi Shemer herself—are intertwined with beautiful renditions of many of her most famous songs by Israel’s top singers, making this a very beautiful and heart-warming film.

Watch for this extraordinary documentary series --  Wind, Darkness, Water -- which will be broadcast on Israeli TV Channel One later this month!

For distribution info -- contact Israel TV Channel One.


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