"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.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Israeli films starring the city of Jerusalem

Yom Yerushalayim is approaching.  It is the day that the government has chosen to celebrate the unification of Jerusalem in 1967.  For me, it is much more a day to consider the issues and challenges of coexistence in this city.  In honor of this day, I am sharing an annotated listing of films dealing with Jerusalem! 

A few years ago, a film fund was established in Jerusalem.  As a result, there have been a large number of high quality feature films in which the city of Jerusalem plays an important role.  I recommend the following feature films, all of which have been reviewed on this blog --

  • Footnote by Joseph Cedar -- a film which portrays life in Jerusalem, from the streets and sites of the city, to cultural events and mostly academic life and political back-biting at the Hebrew University.
  • Hill Start by Oren Stern -- a quirky comedy on the subject of the family.
  • Sweets by Joseph Pitchhadze -- a satire on the spiraling violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
  • Hunting Elephants by Reshef Levy -- a comedy about a bank heist which includes a lot of nostalgia and melodrama.
  • Wonders by Avi Nesher -- a thriller about a rabbi who works wonders and foretells the future.
About women in crisis --
  • Self Made by Shira Gefen -- about two women living parallel lives, not very far away from each other, but separated by a checkpoint.
  • Present Continuous by Aner Preminger -- about a woman having difficulty in letting her children become independent during a terrible period of bombings in Jerusalem.
  • Fragile by Vidi Bilu -- set in Jerusalem of 1966, this is a study of a lonely woman.
Adaptations of literary works by David Grossman --
  • Someone to Run With by Oded Davidoff -- a story of two adolescents, one of whom has the strength and courage to fight back against the world of drugs and teen exploitation -- two young people who are able to make a difference.
  • Intimate Grammar by Nir Bergman -- a film about adolescent turmoil, set in Jerusalem of the 1960s.
In addition, I highly recommend two feature-length documentaries --
  • Footsteps in Jerusalem (previously reviewed on this blog), 87 minutes, contemporary vignettes produced by graduates of the Sam Spiegel Film School, somewhat based on the classic documentary, In Jerusalem, by David Perlov.
  • Ron Havilio's documentary, Fragments: Images of a Life in Jerusalem (1983-94) -- an epic film, not a documentary in the conventional sense, rather it is an ongoing diary of a filmmaker's personal impressions.  The film shows the filmmaker's attraction to the old neighborhood of Mamilla near the Jaffa Gate built along the divide between old and new, east and west, Arab and Jew.  Most of the old buildings of the neighborhood have now been torn down, replaced by upmarket housing and a fancy outdoor shopping mall.  But Havilio's images remain for future generations.
The following short films are also worth attention (also reviewed on this blog) -- 

  • From Man to Man - We Pass Like Strangers by Daniel Gal -- 23 minutes, about the diversity of the people of Jerusalem.
  • Day and Night by Sivan Arbel -- 51 minutes, the story of the Weingarten school in Jerusalem, which was established in 1902 as the first orphanage for girls in Israel.
  • The Beetle by Yishai Oren -- a quirky Jerusalem mosaic about people, places, a young couple, and the history of their car.
  • Jerusalem Moments, a series of short films from Ir Amim (2008) -- a collection of ten short films, which provide diverse perspectives on difficult issues about living together – Israelis and Palestinians – within the same city.

Some of the better older classics that take place on the background of Jerusalem include --

  • Hide and Seek by Dan Wolman (1980) - about living in a society in conflict during the British Mandate period.  The film contains beautiful photography of Jerusalem and an authentically evoked period setting which portrays the conformity and loyalty required by a society under siege.  Wolman has used the theme of a Jew with an Arab lover, a well-known motif from Hebrew literature.  Setting his story in a difficult period in the history of the nation and adding a tale of homosexual love, he successfully interweaves the private anguish of an individual with the external pressures and political events of the time.
  • Three Days and a Child by Uri Zohar (1967) - an adaptation of A B Yehoshua's well-known novel. This is the story of a stereotypical sabra -- tough and cynical on the outside, yet vulnerable on the inside, who encounters himself as he confronts the child of the woman he loves. 
  • My Michael by Dan Wolman (1975) - an adaptation of the celebrated novel by Amos Oz. The setting is 1950s Jerusalem, a city divided.  A reflection of the divided city in which she lives, and unfulfilled by her peaceful and conventional life, Hannah abandons herself to a world of erotic fantasies and dreams in which both her past attraction to and fear of Arab twin boys, with whom she played as a child when Jerusalem was undivided, play a major role.  Wolman has created a work of art which illustrates the effect on people's lives of having to cope with the tensions of geographical and psychological divisions.
  • Hill 24 Doesn't Answer by Thorold Dickinson (1954) -- which combines in-depth characterization and elements of romance and melodrama with authentically evoked historical incidents.  One of the vignettes is about a foreign volunteer fighting for the Old City of Jerusalem during the War of Independence.
  • Moments by Michal Bat Adam (1979) -- the story of the meeting between a pensive young writer and a French tourist, both women, who develop a complex, intense relationship.  Having decided to book into the same quaint and luxurious Jerusalem hotel, the two women spend a few intense days together.  Shot at the American Colony Hotel in East Jerusalem, this setting lends a feeling of beauty to a film in which sensitivities and emotions are of the utmost importance.

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