"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.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Farewell Baghdad

Recently I had a chance to see a new historical drama, which is currently playing in Israeli movie theaters --- Farewell Baghdad, directed by Nissim Dayan.  A literary adaptation, the film is based on the best-selling novel by Eli Amir (Israeli author born in 1937 Baghdad).  Filmed on locations in Israel -- mostly in Nazareth and Jaffa, also in Akko, Abu Ghosh, Beersheba and south Tel Aviv -- this film is a bit stilted (more like a TV drama), but it is a moving period piece, recreating life in 1950 Baghdad and providing us with a glimpse at a little-known slice of Jewish history. 
Kabi is a teenager, whose uncle has been imprisoned for his Zionist activities.   As Kabi works to get his uncle released, he slowly becomes engulfed in the intrigues of the members of the Jewish community who are working illegally and behind-the-scenes to get members of the community to go to Israel.  

This is the story of a community which was forced to leave everything behind and come to Israel.  The Iraqi Jewish community was fully integrated into Iraqi life, but after the establishment of the State of Israel, an ambivalent relationship began in which they considered themselves Iraqi but suddenly their place in Iraq was no longer accepted.   Many of the Jews had property, some had high connections in the government.  Nevertheless, eventually the government decided to free itself of the Jews and approximately 130,000 Jews were forced to leave for Israel during the years 1950-51. 

Ahuva Keren  (a well-know Israeli actress of Iraqi origin) was the primary mover in getting Eli Amir -- the famous Israeli author who wrote the book on which the film is based and who himself comes from Baghdad -- to agree to the adaptation of the book.  She trained the actors in speaking their lines in authentic Jewish Iraqi.  In fact, most of the film speaks the Jewish Iraqi dialect (as differentiated from the standard Iraqi Arabic). 

 In an interview on Telecinema, Israel TV Channel 1 (April 12, 2014), Keren declared that she was proud to have had a hand in the creation of this literary adaptation because "so much of my culture was distorted by bourekas films."  ("Bourekas" films refers to a genre of popular escapist films, both comedies and melodramas, made mostly during the 1970s and 1980s, which dealt with ethnic stereotypes and which had little artistic sophistication.) 

An alternative title for Farewell Baghdad in Hebrew is מפריח יונים  which is The Dove Flyer.

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