Cinema of Israel: Wikis

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Cinema of Israel (Hebrew: קולנוע ישראליKolnoa Yisraeli, Lit. Israeli Cinema) has been in existence since the 1950s. The Israeli films often reflect typical Israeli themes and social developments. The majority of the films are produced in the Hebrew language, with many others in English, other European languages, and Arabic. Israel has been nominated for more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film (8) than any other country in the Middle East.

Israeli cinema has been developing since the early 1950s until the present, even though Jews had been producing many movies in the British Mandate of Palestine for decades prior to the establishment of the state of Israel. The film industry generated hundreds of films through the years in various styles and genres, including drama films, comedies, documentaries and short films which have gained recognition and respect worldwide. The industry has known ups and downs, but for many years, and especially nowadays, the Israeli cinema has been capable of getting hundreds of thousands of viewers to the cinemas and to represent Israel with much dignity in film contests and film festivals worldwide.

Contents

The history of Israeli cinema

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Prior to the establishment of the state

Film Industry in Palestine during the British Mandate of Palestine and afterwards during the first years of the state, didn't actually exist. Movies were filmed in Palestine since the time of the beginning of the silent film era during the 19th century, but an actual movie industry was not really conceived, both in the period of the Yishuv, and also during the first years of the state. The films which were produced were rare, and usually didn't match the quality of the films which were imported from abroad. Initially the industry, focused particularly on producing propaganda films and news broadcasts which were shown in the Israeli cinemas during that time before the movies were shown.

The 1950s

During the 1950s some development was made. Israeli cinema studios were established such as "Geva movies" (סרטי גבע) and the "Israel's filming studios" (אולפני ההסרטה בישראל) in Herzliya, and several films which contained plot were created. In 1954 the law to encourage the production of Israeli film (החוק לעידוד הסרט הישראלי) was passed, and in 1955 the most important Israeli film which was filmed until then was produced - "Hill 24 Doesn't Answer" (גבעה 24 אינה עונה). In the late 1950s the Israeli film industry was still in its early stages and hadn't managed to create for itself unique charicarictics, its own language, or even a real industry. The films were mostly patriotic in nature. The films were not simply "action" or "crime" films, they could be those things but with a very Israeli perspective and touch.

The 1960s

Israeli cinema gained more popularity with the decision to grant tax refunds on the purchase of theater tickets, which initiated the production of Israeli films by commercial companies, expecting a reasonable return on their investment and gain in profits. Menahem Golan, Ephraim Kishon, and Uri Zohar were the most prominent and active Israeli movie makers during the 1960s.

The Israeli films during the 1960s dealt with the misunderstanding between the Jews that came from the Middle East, and the Jews that came from Europe, such as Fortuna (פורטונה) which was directed by Menahem Golan didn't fully utilize the conflict yet and still continued having plot lines and characters which originated in the fifties. The films from the fifties evolved into the "main genre" films - popular and commercial films which were compatible with the ideological optimism and happiness to finally have a country that these times are mostly remembered for - At the same time, two different genres evolved, which had different artistic and ideological styles. The first Bourekas film was Sallah Shabati which was produced by Ephraim Kishon in 1964. Correspondingly, in 1965 Uri Zohar produced the film Hole in the Moon which was the first in the "New sensitivity" film movement which sought to bring the Israeli film features which were taken from the highest quality European cinema, particularly the French New Wave films. These two genres fully evolved during the seventies.

The 1970s

During the seventies a lot of films from the Bourekas genre were produced in Israel. These films were big successes in the box office but had a harsh critical reception. They were usually demotic comedy films (such as Charlie Ve'hetzi and Hagiga B'Snuker) or sentimental melodramas (such as Nurit). The main subject in most of the Bourekas films was the conflict between various classess and denominations, particularly due to romantic intentions. Prominent filmmakers in this genre during this period include Boaz Davidson, Ze'ev Revach, Yehuda Barkan and George Obadiah.

Besides the Bourekas films, during the 1970s there were also many unique quality films which were created, among them the "New sensitivity" (הרגישות החדשה) movement which produced social artistic films. One of the most prominent films of this genre is But Where Is Daniel Wax? by Avraham Heffner. Three high-quality films which were created in seventies - The Policeman Azoulay (Ephraim Kishon), I Love You Rosa and The House on Chelouche Street by Moshé Mizrahi were candidates for a Oscar Award in the foreign film category.

The 1980s

During the eighties the amount of audience going to see Israeli films significantly decreased. In addition to that, the government budget which was given to the film industry was very small - which made it very difficult to produce new quality films.

Among the most prominent films of this period: Beyond the Walls (Uri Barbash), Summer of Aviya (Gila Almagor), Avanti Popolo (Rafi Bukai), Late Summer Blues (Renen Schorr), Noa Bat 17 (Yitzhak Yeshurun), Hamsin (Danny Waxman), Shtei Etzbaot Mi'Tzidon (Eli Cohen) and Burning Land (Serge Ankri).

The 1990s

During the nineties there was a certain improvement in the amount of audience going to films, especially to a number of prominent cinematic successes, while the rest of the films failed at the box office. These films drew away from both politics and from the Bourekas films and primarily focused on the personal aspect of Israeli society. In addition to that there was an emergence of films about anti-heroes at the margins of society. A good example for this is the film Amazing Grace of Amos Gutman which dealt with AIDS patients.

Among the most prominent films of this period: Life According to Agfa (Asi Dayan), Over the Ocean (Yaacov Goldwasser), Zohar (Eran Riklis), Song of the Siren (Eytan Fox), Lovesick on Nana Street (Savi Gavison), Leylasede (Shemi Zarhin), Afula Express (Julie Shles), Yana's Friends (Arik Kaplun) and Strangers in the Night (Serge Ankri).

The 2000s

The first decade of the 21st century has brought a prosperous era to Israeli cinema, both for drama and documentary. The Israeli cinama audience grew, critics praised more films, and several Israeli films gained respect and won awards in film festivals around the world. This success could be ascribed to the significant improvement in the quality of the films, a decrease in overtly politcal emphasis, and to an increased funding from both the state and television industry. The Israeli commercial TV channels (Channel 2, Cable television and Satellite television) were contractually obliged to fund cinematic film productions in exchange for their future broadcasting rights. Furthermore, royalties which the television companies once paid to the government now go to the Israeli cinema industry.

Among the most prominent films of this period: Late Marriage (Dover Koshashvili), Broken Wings (Nir Bergman), Walk on Water and Yossi & Jagger (Eytan Fox), Nina's Tragedies (Savi Gavison), Campfire and Beaufort (Joseph Cedar), Or (My Treasure) (Keren Yedaya), Turn Left at the End of the World (Avi Nesher), The Band's Visit (Eran Kolirin) and Waltz With Bashir (Ari Folman).

Genres in Israeli cinema

Unique genres in Israeli cinema

Bourekas films

"Bourekas film" (סרטי בורקס), is a film genre that was popular in Israeli cinema during the 1960s and 1970s. The central theme was the conflict between the cultures of Israeli ethnicities, especially between the Mizrahi Jews and the Ashkenazi Jews. The hero was usually a Mizrahi Jew, almost always poor, canny and with street smarts, who comes into conflict with the institutions of the state or figures of Ashkenazi origin - mostly portrayed as rich, conceited, arrogant, cold-hearted and alienated.

The term was supposedly coined by the Israeli film director Boaz Davidson, the creator of several such films, as a play-on-words, after "Spaghetti Western:" just as the Western sub-genre was named after a notable dish of its country of filming, so the Israeli genre was named after the notable Israeli dish, Bourekas.

Bourekas films may be further characterized by a number of points: accent imitations (particularly of Jewish people originating from Morocco, Persia, and Poland); a combination of melodrama and comedy, even slapstick; and alternate identities.

New sensitivity films

The "New sensitivity films" (סרטי הרגישות החדשה) is an Israeli cinema movement which started during the 1960s and lasted until the end of the 1970s. The movement sought to create a cinema in modernist cinema with artistic and esthetic values, in the style of the new wave films of the French cinema.

Common genres in Israeli cinema

Mockumentary

Mockumentary has become common in Israeli cinema due to the high political consciousness in Israel. The genre is usually more common in Israeli television than the Israeli cinema, because it usually deals with current matters.

Docudrama

Different events occur in Israel which are perceived in the eyes of its residents and many people abroad as events of historical importance. It is relatively easy to shoot movies about these events, because there is a lot of written material about them in Hebrew which could be used as a basis for a script, and because it is relatively easy to cast an Israeli crew which would have a lot of knowledge about these historical events from personal experience. In a long enough historical event, like the First Lebanon War, it is possible to film Docudrama movies about the place and time in which it occurred.

Hidden camera

The Israeli film industry has produced relatively more movies in this genre than any other cinema industries, especially during the long period of time in which Israel was one of the last countries in the world which had a single TV channel.

Rare genres in Israeli cinema

Video Art

This is a rare genre worldwide which is slightly less rare in the Israel cinema.

Musicals

Many Israeli films include songs performed by the actors. However, very few of the films contain both singing and dancing.

Large budget films

The Israeli film industry cannot compete with big budget Hollywood productions. That is why there are almost no Israeli science fiction films, action films, fantasy films or epic films.

Popular topics in Israeli cinema

Military movies

Many different Israeli films such as drama, Docudrama and comedy films engage in the IDF and in the military way of life. These are often composed of two genres, macho propaganda of fighting men, or "shooting & crying" films.

Films about the lives of Holocaust survivors

Films about the lives of Holocaust survivors, unlike films about the Holocaust itself, are very popular in Israel. Many Hebrew books have been written through the years about these two topics, and it is relatively easy to get funding to produce films about these two topics from funds such as German funds aimed at the commemoration of the Holocaust. The Holocaust has been the most traumatic part in the history of Israeli Jews of European descent.

Films about the relationships between different populations

Movies about the relationship between people of different religions, nations, denominations and traditions are very popular in Israel. These films are usually a blend between comedy, drama and romance that are mostly about the cultural differences between European Jews and the Jews that came from the rest of the world.

Filming studios

  • Herzliya studios (אולפני הרצליה)
  • Golan Globes studios (אולפני גולן גלובוס)
  • The filming unit of the IDF Spokesperson (יחידת ההסרטה של דובר צה"ל)
  • Carmel film (כרמל פילם)

Cinema awards

Cinema festivals in Israel

Notable figures in Israeli film

Significant Israeli film makers include

Significant Israeli actors and actresses include

Notable Israeli films

Bibliography

West Asian cinema
Iranian New Wave
  • Israel Studies 4.1, Spring 1999 - Special Section: Films in Israeli Society
  • Kamal Abdel-Malek, The Rhetoric of Violence: Arab-Jewish Encounters in Contemporary Palestinian Literature and Film, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005
  • Amy Kronish, World cinema: Israel, Trowbridge, Wiltshire : Flicks Books [etc.], 1996
  • Amy Kronish and Costel Safirman, Israeli film : a reference guide, Westport, Conn. [etc.] : Praeger, 2003
  • Ray Privett, Amos Gitai: Exile and Atonement, New York: Cinema Purgatorio, 2008.
  • Raz Yosef, Beyond flesh : queer masculinities and nationalism in Israeli cinema, New Brunswick, NJ [etc.] : Rutgers Univ. Press, 2004
  • Ella Shohat, Israeli cinema : East West and the politics of representation, Austin : Univ. of Texas Pr., 1989 ( an updated new edition will be published by I B Tauris & Co Ltd in 2010)

External links


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