"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.


Saturday, July 19, 2014


Self-Made בורג  is Shira Gefen's second feature film, which premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival, this week.  Her first film, Jellyfish (Meduzot) , she made together with her husband, Etgar Keret.

Self-Made is about two women, one Palestinian and one Jewish, both of whom are having difficulties managing their personal lives.  Michal is a highly successful and renowned artist whose bed breaks one morning and she hits her head and loses her memory.  She calls the furniture company and orders a new bed but is unable to manage to put it together.  Nadine works for the same furniture company, packing the screws at their plant.  She uses the screws like crumbs, dropping them along the way as she walks to and from her work.  Both women have lost their way.  

Self-Made encourages critical thinking on political issues.  The two women lead similar and parallel lives - yet the Israeli artist who cannot find her way still lives a life of privilege; one which the Palestinian woman covets.  Much of the movie takes place at the check points where we empathize with Nadine's humiliation and frustrations and observe  the political apathy and self-involvement of the Israeli youth assigned to work there.   In fact, one of the young soldiers at the checkpoint is so upset that she can't go home for the weekend that she aims her gun at helpless women and children waiting to pass through. Later, we see how she only cares about herself -- she states that she couldn't care less if the occupation ends since her army service is soon coming to a close.
The film also deals with issues of gender.  Michal has created a controversial piece of installation art, having undergone surgery so that she could use her own womb as part of the exhibition.  Nadine, on the other hand, is a single woman who is obsessed with her desire for a baby.  An example of an interesting visual image here is when Michal is putting together a baby's crib, it looks like she is behind bars, certainly a comment on how having a baby limits the freedom of a woman.  When Nadine, however, is working on the same crib, the camera angle shifts and the suggestion is that having a baby would actually help free her from the restrictions of Palestinian society.  
There are also interesting visual images dealing with the political side of the film, such as a bulldozer outside the window, which in our minds is connected to the violent dismantling of Palestinian houses.
Due to a soldier's simple mistake at a checkpoint, Michal is sent to Nadine's refugee camp and Nadine is sent to Michal's home in Jerusalem - or perhaps this happens in their fantasy.  Either way, the viewer watches as each woman discovers amazing fulfillment in the life of the other.  
Unfortunately, the film includes the token suicide bomber, which seems a bit banal today, since so many films have already dealt with what motivates a suicide bomber, and also because we haven't seen many suicide bombings in recent years.
Self-Made is produced by Movie Plus Productions and distributed by United King Films.

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