As a proud figure in our community today and someone who is very passionate about Israeli history, I would like to organize a Movie Night program. The Movie Night program will be followed by a short discussion. I am writing to you all because I feel as though it is extremely important to discuss explain why the culture of Israel through the medium cinema. There are several advantages of learning from films rather than learning through other forms of representation. During the program I will show ten movies that clearly illustrate the changes in Israeli society throughout the past century.
Watching and analyzing major Israeli films, we will explore the intensity of the place, its trends throughout history, and see how filmmakers respond both to the dreams and the reality of modern Israel. The program will mostly explore the tensions between “the individual” and “the collective” as it pertains to Zionism, gender and sexuality, religion, the conflict with Arabs, and Mizrahi ethnicity. The films that will be viewed throughout the program will relate to each other in many ways. The relations will be thematic as well as artistic. There is no reason why after reading this letter you will have a problem sponsoring this great program.
As the program begins we will go in depth and talk about the beginning stages of Israeli film. Noah Sokolovsky’s 1913 film, Eretz Yisrael, is a qualified starter film when talking about the very early stages of film in Israel. Noah Sokolovsky’s voyage started in Odessa in April 1913 as he boarded a ship towards Israel along with almost 100 Jews. The film crew arrived in Jaffa and wherever they went people would crowd the streets. The film showed Jaffa’s teacher’s school and Gymnasia, Tel-Aviv’s main school. Some of the clips showed the establishing of orange industries and showed camels carrying the crates to Jaffa for export.
It also showed wine vineyards as well as some residents leaving the synagogue after services. The synagogue was called Zichron Yaakov. Another clip showed a man with one arm plowing behind a horse. One of the last clips shows a festival and crowds and crowds of people. It also showed Jewish athletes in some sort of sport presentation. Overall, the film expresses that the lives of the residents in Palestine during 1913 were lively and most importantly productive. Of course this was all 35 years before Israel was founded. This movie was to show how nice and easy-going life was in Palestine.
The biggest goal for these filmmakers was that they wanted to spread the idea of Zionism. The next movie night program will be Yet another movie that shows the moving and inching towards “the collective” is Helmar Lerski’s Avodah. This film was a milestone documentary that celebrates the early pioneers that settled in Palestine. With surprisingly adequate visual compositions for that time and a pleasant soundtrack by the Budapest Symphony Orchestra, this movie shows the technological and agricultural feats of the early Israeli settlers. It also applauds the ideas of a new Jewish state.
Most of the clips taken from the movie are shots from the Jaffa Port in Tel-Aviv. Other short clips are of several kibbutzim at that time. Helmar Lerski had an expressive style that created a very mythic image of the common Jew in Palestine. The settlers were showed triumphing amidst the sweeping desert landscape. What people should take away from the movie is that it was mainly a propaganda film, feeding the spread of Zionism. It was to show the strengthening of the land, the overall agriculture booming and shows the redemptive efforts of the early Jewish settlers.
One point that will also be talked about in the discussions is that compared to other films at this time, this one in particular has cinematic language. It doesn’t have a narration but at the same time it has these accepted conventions or methods by which movies communicate. Other topics that would be discussed are the ongoing push for masculinity among Jews and how women weren’t really very relevant until much later. As we move on in time twenty or thirty years later we arrive at the heroic years in Israel. The discussions that will take place after the movie is shown are those that involve the heroic years.
The heroic genre years started in the forties and are still going on through the present day. The basis of these years show mainly wars. These years go from the Independence Wars, all the way through the First and Second Lebanon Wars. Thorold Dickinson goes along with the underlying theme of these years in his 1955 classic, “Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer. ” This theory of how Israeli soldiers have been fighting for their land with such heroism and devotion for their country is represented fully in this film. The movie is taken from a predominantly Israeli point of view.
The main points in the film are voiced out with a bit of conviction and confidence. This feature film was the first ever shot in Israel. It deals with the Israeli War of independence and the breakout of animosity and aggression between countries. Different scenes show the audience the courage and bravery of the soldiers themselves. For example, the clips near the end of the film where unfortunately some of the soldiers die. Although they were bombed, the soldiers claimed the hill. The flag was taken from one of the soldier’s dead bodies so that it could be clearly represented who was the victor, Israel.
This shows the viewers how “heroic” these soldiers, but at the same time citizens of Israel were. With the establishment of the Jewish state, Israel’s in general want to settle down and have a normal life with a more westernized style. Boaz Davidson understands this slow but steady transition when he starts the “Lemon Popsicle” campaign in 1978. This Israeli cult film’s main themes are surrounded by sex. The movie focuses on three teens that grow up in Tel Aviv, dealing with their friendships with each other and mostly their sexual experiences with the opposite sex.
Most of the film exposes a good amount of nudity and comedy. It also brings to light somewhat sensitive subjects at the time like unrequited loving and abortion. This would give the viewers of the film a different or second look at teenage life during the 1950’s in Tel Aviv. Discussions for this movie would be talking about the change in underlying themes based on new sensibility in Israeli cinema. Moving along into the 21st century, the program will switch gears and talk about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.
I would like to focus more on the different aspects of Arab and Israeli societies, when talking about gender and the lack of equalities within. The film, “Lady Kul-el-arab is an Israeli,” documentary made in 2006. It was directed by Ibtisam Salh Mara Ana and produced by Heymann Brothers. It tells the story of a young Arab-Israeli girl and her family and their struggle between religion and a woman’s right to self-expression. The story opens with the parents of the main character panicking to find their daughter. This film technique immediately draws you into the story.
The audience is already wondering what has happened. The film then goes back in time 6 months prior to tell the story of how a beautiful Arab-Israeli girl from the religious Druze sect tries desperately to become Miss Israel and pursue her dream to become an international fashion model. Duah Farres, the young Arab-Israeli girl, connects with Jack Yaakob, a fashion designer to coach her to walk properly and put on makeup. Yaacob takes her to preliminary pageant selections in Haifa. The bond between them grows strong as she qualifies for the Lady of Arab pageant in her local village.
Duah begins to see she not only wants to win The Lady of Arab pageant, but also actually wants to compete in the much larger Miss Israel contest. Winning Miss Israel would allow her to compete in the Miss Universe contest leading to a major international modeling career. She even selects a new name, Angelina, to start the process of the Israeli pageant. This new name also marks her separation into a new life. As the selections ensue, there are hints of her emotions being unsettled as she paces in the film and questions the bare armed outfits she needs to wear for a photo shoot.
As a woman of the Druze sect, there are many restrictions imposed on her, this being one of them. As Angelina continues her journey, she is faced with the issue of the swimsuit display in the Israeli pageant. As the Druze community feels dishonored by her participation in the pageant, she begins to get death threats. Although Angelina is strong willed and determined to follow her career, she is pressured to drop out by local religious leaders and family members. Her uncle and two men are even arrested for plotting to kill her.
It still appears that there is a long road that Arab women will need to travel before becoming independent with a clear voice of their own. Films and documentaries like this reach audiences around the world and they may help to modify attitudes and modernize dated traditions and antiquated cultures. Discussions will take place after the documentary is over and will talk about how films like these continue to broaden our minds and the minds of future generations. Another huge topic that would most certainly be discussed is the Holocaust.
There are certain years between talking about the Holocaust. During most of the personal genre years, the topic of the Holocaust just wouldn’t be discussed. Although were I would pick up the movie night program would be the Second Generation years. These were the years in which the Holocaust would be talked about through the children of Holocaust survivors. Cinema would play as a way of communicating with viewers about the harsh reality itself of their struggles as well as their parent’s struggles with daily life.
The movie that would be shown that night is, “Because of That War. ” It is a 1988 documentary film that takes place in Israel. The story documents the common bond between 2 young Jewish musicians, Yehuda Poliker and Yaacov Gilead as children of Holocaust survivors. Through family interviews and recollection, the story goes back in time to tell the history of how their parent’s trauma of the Holocaust affected both their lives and their music. The director, Orna Ben-Dor Niv, effectively communicates how the parent’s trauma and fears became their own.
In a dark close room, Yehuda Poliker, stutters, as he recounts the story of a time when he was 5 years old and his Dad tore off a piece of bread and swallowed it much like he had when given bread during his time in the ghetto. As he swallowed his father could not breathe. Yehuda was traumatized thinking his father was going to die and thus lose a member of the family. He then plays a sad song from his childhood about not finding his parents. Yehuda is overwhelmed by his parent’s protectiveness and repeated recollections of their youth. He is constantly reminded that life can be taken away because of that war.
Jacko, Yehudas father weeps as he tells the story of being only one of 50 left from his family members in Auschwitz. He watched his brother, wife and others die before his eyes. Although that was years before, the feeling of desertion never leaves his mind. He talks about how, with his second wife, he constantly checked on all of his children’s whereabouts to make sure nothing would happen to them. Again, this fear of loss overwhelms him. During this scene the director shows him with his second wife, three sons, their wives and their family of 16 grandchildren all piled together in the small room to show how close they are now.
Yaacov Gilead, sits while his mother, Helena Birnbaum, speaks about her traumatic experience in Treblinka not realizing that in telling her story, her very young son would forever mentally wounded. She talks about losing her family, the Death March and being alone. Separately, Yaacov talks about the continuous theme of death as he grew up. He says that his parent’s childhood became his childhood with nowhere to turn. “Ashes and Dust,” the album that was being produced during the filming helped to express the feelings of both Yehuda and Yaacov.
Yehuda, the lyricist and Yaacov, the guitarist, sing about desertion, death, love, loss and guilt. This was a gritty, straightforward documentary that showed the heartfelt feelings of two very distraught children who grew up to became musical artists. Through their music, they and the audience took a cathartic journey. The next night of the program will be the Holocaust topic continued. We will go over in our discussions this night about the children of the Holocaust survivors and how they imagine their parents as survivors. This Boaz Davidson film, Alex Holeh Ahavah or Alex is Lovesick was made in 1986.
This cult film portrays times in Israel during the 1950’s. It is a romantic comedy that was made during a time when Israel was going through an austerity period. Overall, this film uses several authentic examples to genuinely recreate the times of this country during the 1950’s through the romantic comedy genre. The first example of austerity in Israel in the film is of course the black market scene. Almost 700,00 immigrants came to Israel around 1948, which led to austerity in the country. The staple foods like oil and butter were some of the good that were rationed.
Inevitably, black markets started to pop up and would sell these smuggled goods from the countryside for higher prices. The scene picks up as Alex and his mother arrive at the apartment where the black market is. The scene itself is genuine of the times based on how suspicious the lady at the door was the whole scene. This paints a picture of how serious it was but also offers a comedic way of looking at it based on the movie genre. Alex’s mother was surprised with the amount the lady was charging for butter, which is also accurate based on the fact that that people were charged higher prices during this time.
Other examples throughout include the clothes and dress of the actors in the film as well as the search for lost family members due to the Holocaust. In the film, Alex’s aunt, Lola, is a Holocaust survivor from Poland in search for her lost husband. They got lost after the invasion of Poland by the Nazis. This is also obviously historically accurate because many people were in a panic and lost many family members during this time. Once again, this movie does an outstanding job portraying some of the aspects people living in Israel had to do deal with during this harsh time in history.
Alex is Lovesick clearly illustrates how Boaz Davidson tries to harshen the blow of the past realities. After the Holocaust, we will dive into the Orientalizing of Arab-Jews. A lot of stereotyping goes on about those that are Mizrahi. In the discussions, we will pinpoint what stereotypes can be found in the movies and how they compare to stereotypes in our culture today. Sallah was a 1964 feature directed by Ephraim Kishon. The film brings about the craziness that was Israeli immigration through cinematic comedy. The main character, Sallah Shabati, throughout the movie completely insinuates the different stereotypes of the time.
The irreverent depictions of Kibbutzim during the film are indeed somewhat head-turners. The false representation of Kibbutzniks in the film contradicts the myth of Socialist solidarity and collectivist idealism. The film did end up getting nominated for an Academy award in 1964. Despite the clear, stereotypical messages throughout the movie, the film is a success. What is learned from this situation is that being controversial, most of time, sells. Continuing with the personal genre, the next movie we would show in the program is “Late Marriage,” directed by Dover Kosashvili.
It is an Israeli film that was released in 2001. The film deals with the struggles of marriage of a Judaea-Georgian family and their son. “Zaza” has already found his true love but he wouldn’t dare ask her to marry him because of his family and how extremely strict they are. There are certain traditions that must stay in place from generations to generations. The proper spouse is important for a Georgian-Israeli family. This superbly played film, directed with remarkable skill for a first-time feature filmmaker, is truly an adult drama.
It deals with the kind of compromises and sacrifices that, for better or worse, come with maturity. Koshashvili also makes effective use of explicit sexuality to enrich his story without ever appearing the slightest bit lewd. I would end the Movie Night program with a somewhat of a controversial subject, Gay and Lesbians cinema. The new millennium brought on different types of social groups to light in Israel. “Fucking Different Tel Aviv” is an anthology of shorts showing the diverse views gay sexuality in a traditional Tel-Aviv, from the point of view of twelve gay and lesbian filmmakers.
Yair Hochner was one of the directors of the 2008 feature film. The film delivers a well-balanced piece of unique shorts that contain story, characters, plot and atmosphere. The film reveals the key role politics and religion play in gay and lesbian sexualities in Israel. It has underlying themes that could reinforce stereotypes of gay and lesbian life in Tel-Aviv today, though the different ways of approaching the topic undermines any attempt to define a singular gay or lesbian Israeli lifestyle.
All I all, this film takes you to loosen up and look again at the traditional concepts of “masculinity” and “Femininity. ” The movies that will be shown will again explore the intensity of the place, its trends throughout history, and see how filmmakers respond both to the dreams and the reality of modern Israel. It should be clear to all those who took the time to read this letter that this Movie Night Program is a necessity in our community today. Movies teach us all about ourselves, past and present societies. They can be an amazing source of insight and inspiration; we just have to be willing to learn.