"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.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Bulgarian Rhapsody

Bulgarian Rhapsody is a World War II period drama directed by Ivan Nitchev.  Although not an Israeli film per se, I have chosen to write about it since it is a co-production with Israel, and also due to its subject matter, and due to the fact that the film stars Israel's Moni Moshonov (who is himself of Bulgarian descent).

A few words about historical context -- the Bulgarian government cooperated and sided with the Nazis and enacted many anti-Jewish laws during the period of World War II.  Their leading church figures, however, did not permit the Jewish community to be rounded up and sent to be slaughtered.   This was a unique phenomenon in all of Europe, but the Jews of the neighboring Greek and Macedonian towns were not so lucky.

Based on a true family story, the drama focuses on the friendship between two boys -- Moni is a shy Jewish teenager.  His best friend, Giorgio (not Jewish), has more success with the girls.  When Moni's family sends him together with his sister and  grandmother to visit family friends in a neighboring Greek seaport town, he falls madly in love with Shelly.  Shortly thereafter, Shelly and her family come to Sofia for Moni's sister's wedding, and Giorgio decides to pursue her, creating a love triangle, which is the basis for the narrative construct of the film.  

The narrative includes additional interesting elements of the period -- the young couple who depart for Palestine, the unrequited love affair of the grandparents, the good relations between Jews and non-Jews, and the brute anti-Semitism of Giorgio's father.  

The film provides an interesting window into the Jewish community of Sofia, with authentic atmosphere of the period, including furniture, clothing, and food.   The film is also authentic in its depiction of the authorities who were not hesitant in complying with Nazi policies, even though this did not lead to mass deportations, as in most of the other countries in Eastern Europe. 

Bulgarian Rhapsody is Nitchev's third installment in a trilogy about the history of Bulgaria's Jewish community. The first two films were  After the End of the World (1999) and The Journey to Jerusalem (2003).

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