Entries tagged with “Israeli cinema”.

The first film that I viewed in 2018 in a pre-screening before the Israeli premiere was Shelter (original title ‘Mistor’). It is directed by , a director whose previous works The Syrian Bride and The Human Resources Manager I liked. Those were movies inspired by the Israeli reality, complex and emotional at the same time. The latest was based on a novel by A.B. Yeoshua. With Shelter Riklis tries a very different type of movie, a combination of psychological thriller and action movie, and the result was for me quite disappointing.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6249434/mediaviewer/rm3618842368

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6249434/mediaviewer/rm3618842368


Yet, I can understand what intended Riklis with this story (he also wrote the script). The encounter between the Israeli Mossad agent and the Lebanese collaborator that she has the mission to defend while recovering from a plastic surgery that aims to change her physiognomy creates the premises of the meeting of two women who are separated by almost everything in their personal biographies and yet have so much to share as personal traumas. Women fighting in the secret wars have no easy time, and there is very little literature or film that dealt with these topic if at all. There is no feminine version of John Le Carre and of his heroes if you want.


(video source unitedkingfilms)


While the intentions and premises are interesting, the execution lacks pace and the building of the relationship that is supposed to take place in the sheltering apartment in Germany is never credible on screen. I am not sure who is to blame for this, maybe more time should have been spent in the claustrophobic enclosure of the house and the inserts describing the menace closing on the two women could have been less or ignored at all. The two actresses ( and especially ) do a reasonable job, but the chemistry that would have made their relationship credible is missing. The final quarter of the film switches pace and turns the whole story into an action movie, but lacks credibility. Psychological thrillers and action spy movies are two very different genres and their mixing does not work.

Not only that there is no such thing as bad advertising, but bad advertising can help a lot. The success (public, critics, festivals) of ‘s second film ‘Foxtrot‘ may become at some point an example in the text books of cinema and public relations. The critics in Israel (including the Minister of Culture whose office actually supported financially the making of the film) who have trashed the film for its political attitude without seriously discussing it and (some of them, probably) without seeing it just succeeded to create a big fuzz around ’Foxtrot‘ which will make many Israeli film fans go and see it, and may also draw the attention and increase the international interest. Will the viewers be rewarded with an exceptional cinema experience? Not in my opinion. It’s not a bad film, but it also has many disputable parts, and I am not referring only to the political approach. Will it win it an Academy Award? I very much doubt it will even make it through the selection, although, of course, I will be glad to be proved wrong.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6896536

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6896536


The film is built of three different parts, somehow like the three acts of a theater play. They may well be each of them a separate movies, as there are different leading themes in each of the acts, although they are interconnected. The first and the last part takes place in the house of the parents of a soldier, the middle one describes him and his comrades at the location where they are on duty, a a security checkpoint, someplace in an almost lunar landscape, that started to erode and decompose. A quote from ‘s Stalker comes to mind immediately, it’s just that the natural disaster around symbolizes the more universal disaster that is ongoing. I liked especially the first part, which describes so well the nightmare that any Israeli parent who sent his kids to the army fears more than anything else in the world. At some point in time the story breaks and the worse news received by the parents turn to something different and behind their grieving are hidden more darker secrets. The second part includes the problematic scenes and the least that can be said is that the story of the soldiers just out of their childhood put into the impossible situation of policing the local population in the occupied areas is told from a very programmatic point of view. Can such incidents happen in reality? Hard to believe IMO, but they deserve a discussion, and the discussion should be about the events and not about the right to show them on screen. The last part takes us back to the parents home, and the critical approach now shifts against the mid-class Tel Aviv families busy with their neurotics and  their own mean small personal traumas, unable to face reality and hiding themselves behind the smoke of grass.


(video source TIFF Trailers)


The three episodes have each their merits and their lose points, but they hardly come together, as each seems to carry its own message or more than one. Grief dominates the first, youth faced with war and politics dominate the second, escapism is the main theme of the third. It’s a world that seems to have a hard time coming together, and so do the messages of this film that lack shared coherence. The film is full of symbols, too many, some quite good (the road leading to nowhere), some too obvious (the mud, the reclining cabin), some re-circulated from other movies trying to make the parts come together without really succeeding (the camel). When they try to be direct, the makers of the film failed, as in the schematic representation of the soldiers, the local population, and the relation between them.  is fantastic in the first part, but his acting falls into mannerism and is less convincing later. is a semi-miscast, too young for the role, spends much of the first part under sedation and never lets us understand her relationship with the father or the son. Overall my feeling was that this ambitious film failed in many respects because it tries to say too much and lacks one leading thread. As the dance in the title the story goes ahead, aside, and back, to return to the point where it started. It is still very much a film worth to see, even if some of the viewers will get to see it because of the wrong reasons, while some other will avoid it because of the same wrong reasons.


For once the English translation of the Hebrew title of this film was quite inspired. In Hebrew it was screened as ‘lo po, lo sham’ (not here, not there) and ‘In Between’ reflects even better the state of mind but also the social status of the three heroins of this interesting film. It also is quite a rare (but not unique) production in the local film market, a film about the Palestinian Arabs in Israel, spoken almost entirely in Arab, dealing with the tensions and problems in the society and communities of the Arabs living in Israel. I need to mention also that the film was produced by Shlomi Elkabetz and is dedicated to the memory of his late sister , a wonderful actress and film-maker who passed away a year ago, and supported financially by several Israeli film funds and TV stations.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5974388/

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5974388/


The three Arab young women in the center of the film live in the cosmopolitan city of Tel Aviv, a city which is liberal and permissive by any criteria. In Israel it is sometimes called ‘The Bubble’ because of the differences in style of life from the rest of the country – the gape between living in Tel Aviv and the rest of Israel is as large as the gape between living in Manhattan and the rest of the US, or Paris and the rest of France. These differences are even more accentuated for people coming from the Arab sectors society (which are much more traditional than the Jewish ones) and even sharper for women. Leila (), Salma (), and Nour () have each a different life story, try to cope differently with the social, professional, genre, and emotional problems, but at the end will share the same fate of being pushed aside and discriminated for several reasons – belonging to the Arab minority, being women, trying to adopt a style of life and exercise professions, making their own choices in the personal lives.


(video source LevCinema)


Such stories cannot have a happy end, and the final scene is almost a freeze-up on desperation, although we know that their fight continues. I liked the solidarity of the three women, the direct, almost rough way their stories are told, the way the three actress enter or better say live in their roles. I liked less the schematic approach of presenting the other characters, bad (mostly) or good. Script author and director seems to have borrowed many of the stereotypes of the Israeli films, and his approach in describing the Arab families as super-conservative and the Big City as a living hell populated with smoking, drinking, and drugs misses many other aspects of these complex worlds and situations even if it can be statistically close to reality. In Between could have been a much better movie in my opinion if these over-simplifications were avoided.


Rama Burshtein‘s first feature film Lemale et ha’halal / Filling the Void was awarded the prize for the best Israeli movie in 2012 and yet, it belongs to a genre which is quite unique in the landscape of the Israeli cinema. Films about the life of the ultra-Orthodox community are made in the low numbers and I can remember only one such significant film of this kind, (the slightly better) Ha-Ushpizin. Paradoxically, Filling the Void was to some extent a reaction of the director to Gidi Dar and Shuli Rand‘s film, which she did not appreciate as authentic enough and respectful enough towards the ultra-Orthodox (‘haredi’) community (I did not have any such feeling when I saw their film). It took many years to the director (an ultra-Orthodox herself, quite a unique status in her community) and the effort deserves a lot of respect, and so does the resulting film as well.




Let us try to make abstraction of the location (the small haredi community in the most secular city of Tel Aviv) and look at this film as to any other ‘ethnic’ movie. The story talks about the dilemma of a beautiful young girl who reached the age of marriage. In her community marriage is always arranged and blessed by the parents. There is a slight room for decision for the young woman who can meet the candidates and refuse the match if she does not like them. Not much more than this however. And there are more rules. As her elder sister dies at birth-giving, her mother takes the new born in her care, but the best interest of the family and the community is that the girl would marry the widower. The balance between duty and love can tear the soul of any young woman, but especially the one of a girl living in a community in which women’s principal destiny is marriage, and where the choice happens only once in one’s life. Eventually things arrange, as the widower is also the most handsome and most sensitive male around and because all decisions (important or small details of life) reach eventually the wise rabbi who plays the role of the ‘deus ex machina’ in the Hollywood scripts. (how appropriate this Latin expression is here).


(video source Mostra SP)


The script is far from perfect from an intrigue point of view, and there are more flaws to come. Unless the script written by Rama Burshtein for director Rama Burshtein was fully respectful to the the norms of the community she lives in she would never make the film. So there is no explicit critic or social comment whatsoever in this film, and this may make the blood boil to many feminist and not-so-feminist but secular viewers. The handling of money as a way to solve problems during the audiences at the rabbi may be considered kind of a satire, until you know that this is actually the way a Purim custom is enacted at the rabbinical courts. The lack of social comment is replaced by a painful attention to the details of the rituals and life of the community and the individuals living within. Rama Burshtein succeeds to create many charming moments of true cinema, either by unusual camera angles (the scene of the circumcision), by elaborate costumes and authentic setting, or by directing a team of actors, many of them non-religious (like Hadas Yaron and Yftach Klein in the lead roles) into the details not only of the tradition that the characters represent and of the emotions that they feel.

There is a lot of curiosity and openness from the non-religious or not-so-religious sectors of the Israeli society towards the lives and feelings of the ultra-Orthodox community and this is reflected also by the success of this film. Rama Burshtein is a talented film maker but taking into consideration her community and style of life I wonder if there will be a second film at this level of achievement – because despite its flaws ‘Fill the Void’ is an achievement in its own way.

The popular comedies mixed with Mediterranean melodramas got a name of their own in the Israeli cinema of the 70s: ‘bourekas movies’. ‘Bourekas’ are the local flavor of the Turkish pastries. The genre was dominant while the Israeli cinema was in its teens age, decreased in popularity with the maturity but never really died. We may find traces of it in some of the more recent successes, and with ‘Hunting Elephants’ which combines the genre with the bank robbery and the more recent ‘retired actors playing retired gangsters’ international genre, it generates a film which is at many moments very fun to watch.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt2295196/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2295196/


Much of the story actually takes place in a retirement house where two veteran fighters from the time of the underground independence movement (played by Moni Mosonov and Sasson Gabai) are joined by one of their Brit arch-enemies (and yet family to one of them, and yet a lord, and yes – Patrick Stewart) and by a teen kid in a plot to rob a bank. If the premises seem a little fantasist, I need to say that the script has the unexpected quality of making them almost credible. The old men have the passion of proving once again that their lives fit to the values they fought for in a world that changed. The Brit has his own moral and material reasons. The intellectually super-gifted kid is bullied at school and  must do something to revenge the death of his father and save the honor of his mother. There is an evil system (the banks) to fight and an evil person (the bank manager – Moshe Ivgy) to punish. All fits.


(video source unitedkingfilms)


The three lead actors are big stars of the Israeli film and stage. It’s fun to see them acting especially that some of the lines are really funny.  In many moments the film compares well with such famous international productions like ‘Space Cowboys’ in the ‘old boys’ genre. Director Reshef Levi‘s lack of experience with sustaining the pace and avoiding some repetitions and building up for the actions scenes is however felt. In a bank robbery movie the robbery scene is the key and peak of the interest. Here it is repeated – maybe by design, maybe by coincidence – without adding consistent comic or action value, more in order to justify an ending which is good to the heroes and within the limits of some morality. This does not work well, and this is the main reason the film is in my opinion not a big success but only a nice try.


I must launch one of my rants about film titles translations. Usually my complains are about translating English titles to Hebrew or my mother-tongue Romanian – now it’s about the reverse translation. This film is titled in Hebrew ‘Who’s afraid of the Big Wolf’ which is obviously a reference to Edward Albee’s play. Why on Earth (or in the Negev Desert) would this reference to the title of a well known play written in English be dropped when translating the title of the film from Hebrew to English? Luckily this is one of the few mistakes made by the creators of this interesting film, a good exercise in the genre of horror which slowly gathers mass and quality in the Israeli cinema.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2309224/?ref_=sr_3

source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2309224/


The story of the film directed by   and   could have been a thriller as it is built upon a police case, but it’s a case we learn almost nothing about. There is a police file in the film which ends by being used for very different purposes than intended, but we really do not know on what the suspicions on evil crimes of pedophilia and murder are based, on what grounds the main suspect, a high-school teacher is arrested, freed, kidnapped and eventually punished. More than a thriller this film is closer to the horror genre and asks in an implicit manner some tough questions about truth and guilt, about punishment and who has the right to apply it, about morality in the cases when justice cannot be made. Fans of horror should by no means be discouraged as all these (important) message are implicit and they are served in ‘Big Bad Wolves’ with a copious portion of their preferred stuff which seems to have been the first priority of the directors (who also wrote the script).


(video source Film Festivals and Indie Films)


The team of actors includes a few faces who are well-known to Israeli audiences and I was almost envying the foreign audiences for whom splendid actors like , , , or Doval’e Glickman are new. They all do good jobs. The musical score is well fit, in sync with the action in many moments, or providing the connection with the universe of childhood and fairy tales which is the emotional counterpoint of the whole story in other. Cinematography tries and succeeds a few good things, but falls into routine in the basement and night scenes which occupy much of the story, and editing could have been a little more alert for my taste. Overall I liked this film, and I believe it has chances for a good run among the fans of the genre and not only among them.

Violent thrillers are yet a rather unexplored territory for the big screen Israeli cinema, and I really wonder why. The Israeli reality even if we put aside the political conflict is quite violent at least if one follows the news. While thrillers and detective stories made their way to the TV series, there are very few productions of the genres on big screens. Kirot (which means Walls, although the English title is The Assassin Next Door) is already four years old, and is one of the rare productions in the genre. It is almost a good one, but …


source www.imdb.com/title/tt1198153/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt1198153/


There was no problem for the script writers to extract the medium and the characters that populate the movie. Local mafia is said to be in control of the sex industry, and many of the characters that populate it are of Russian origin, and the sex workers are also coming in numbers from the less fortunate countries of the former Soviet Union. So a former prostitute forced by the Russian mafia to become a killer does not seem to be an extraordinary story. Even less is exceptional the case of the young woman victim of domestic violence, with simple and naive dreams that are never to be fulfilled. These two characters acted by Olga Kurylenko and  local rock star Ninette Tayeb are naturally drawn to each other by a shared record of violence and social injustice, by a lack of hope that makes their fate almost unavoidable. The best scenes of the film are the ones where the two get to know each other wining over the distrust and the differences in language and background, starting to trust, then become friends and eventually share fate. The rather non-professional acting backgrounds of both actresses help, bringing freshness, sincerity and emotion in the building relation between the two.


(video source hasajersi)


The story around is quite expected, and not badly written with the exception of the final which is unrealistic from many respects. The combination of woman killer, women in distress helping each other against violence, mafia movies, all in an Israeli margin-of-the-society environment works well because if does not take over the film, while keeping the interest of the viewers arise and balancing the story so that it does not become too melodramatic. Director Danny Lerner at his second film (he did not make any other film since then) shows quite a talent in directing actors, setting the camera at the right places, building a credible environment an Israeli can recognize. But here is the problem – there was enough good material in the film to make a more blunt social statement, or use some more striking expressive means. Danny Lerner did not undertake this challenge. Daring more and pushing the limits would have helped the film step ahead of the line. It is a decent film, a decent directorial job, and so it risks to be remembered (if at all) – decent, but not more.


Two of the five documentary films competing for the Academy Awards (‘Oscars’) that will be distributed a few days from now deal with the conflict between Jews and Arabs, between Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land. The Gatekeepers was distributed commercially and is on screens for several weeks here in Israel, while ’5 Broken Cameras’ was presented on cable TV a couple of months ago, and this week it was broadcast again, including an almost prime time spot scheduled for tonight on the most popular mainstream commercial channel. This is a good thing, and for the Israeli audiences both movies are highly relevant, as they show different aspects and different perspective of the conflict. There are many differences of course in styles, approaches, characters but the reality is the same, a complex reality with many pieces of puzzle and the more you know, the better.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt2125423/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2125423/


The concept and the story of the making of ’5 Broken Cameras’ is pretty unusual. Israeli film-maker Guy Davidi met in 2005 Emad Burat, a Palestinian inhabitant of the village of Bil’in. This place is well known in the area because the wall of separation between Israel and the Palestinian territories passes in the neighborhood, separating inhabitants from their fields and orchards, and this led to several lawsuits and permanent protests and confrontations with the army some of which turned violent, which were also widely covered by the Israeli and international press and TV. Emad received in 2005 a first camera from Davidi, a camera which covered not only the incidents around the construction of the wall, but also the life of the inhabitants and of the family, the permanent tension between occupation, protests and the need to run normal lives. Since then he is filming until today, actually if I am not mistaken being a cameraman became his profession. In time five cameras broke, most of them during the various incidents, and the cameras themselves became together with the material that was filmed part of the testimony.


(video source movieclips TRAILERS)


At no moment does the film make the claim that it is impartial. It would be an impossible claim to make as the five cameras are hold by a person directly involved in the conflict, the commentary is made by the same person, and what we see and hear is a part of the close and harsh reality the author and his family lives in. Eventually both ’5 Broken Cameras’ and ‘The Gatekeepers’ despite their differences share the same problem. Their contents are highly relevant for the Israeli audiences, and the Israelis should watch them in order to understand the consequences of the occupation, the suffering of the other side, the dangers of the status-quo and of the lack of progress in the peace process. However, this is not the whole picture, this is one piece of a complex puzzle, of a long history, complicated present and uncertain future. Of course, there is that much one film (or two films) can show, and reflecting one aspect of the reality is important. The film should be taken for what it is, and the piece of reality that this film is showing should not be confused with the whole reality, as as part of the truth does not equal the whole truth.

Israelis abide to very few myths. In a young country that is a melting pot of people coming from almost one hundred different countries, where a majority of the population is either born some other place or belong to the second generation of children of immigrant parents, what unites even more than the shared traditions (respected in various manners and to very different levels of obedience) or the common history which is for many yet to be learned (if not to be written) are above all the permanent external menaces perceived in many moments, rightly or wrongly, as existential dangers. In such moments the trust of the nation is not that much focused on politicians but on the people who defend the country, some with the arms in hands, other in wars that are more secret than visible. The heads of the military and the heads of the security services – the legendary spy agency Mossad and the internal Security Service ‘Shin-Beth’ as it is called in this film  are living legends for most of the Israelis. Until recently some of them were known only by their initials as long as they lived and were active. Their opinions count, and when they converge, as seems up to a certain extent to be the case in this film, people listen. The first major achievement of director Dror Moreh and the team that made this film is to have brought together six of The Gatekeepers, the former heads of the internal security service of Israel and make them talk about the history of the service, the war on terrorism, the relations with the Palestinian neighbors of Israel, the situation of Israel today, and the perspective ahead. The convergent views of these men should worry all Israelis who have seen or will see the film.


source www.imdb.com/title/tt2309788/

source www.imdb.com/title/tt2309788/


There is a lot of good and interesting information that is presented in this film, but of course, not all history and the whole complexity of the conflict could have been brought on screen in a documentary that lasts about 90 minutes. Lacking facts will certainly expose the film to critics from all directions, but these critics would be to some extent unfair. In fact for the Israeli audiences there is nothing completely new here, investigative reporting in the Israeli press, TV documentary movies, and books written by political experts and historians have exposed sometimes in much more details different aspects of the stories presented in this film. What is new and different is the candid manner the makers of the movie succeed to make the six different personalities who successively lead the service talk about the events that took place in the last 45 years, their meaning, their implications. Attentive spectators who also know the differences between the views and positions of the six leaders will perceive also the differences between their opinions and their approaches into presenting the facts, but overall a fascinating perspective is built by getting together their testimonies and the history of the area in the period between the Six Days War and today, the initial euphoria, the lost opportunities, the achievements and the mistakes in the fight against terror, the moral dilemmas and the price of the occupation, the human risks and morality of lack of morality of some of the methods – all come together in a perspective which is amplified by the coherent message delivered by each one of the speakers. If you search for information in this film you will not get the whole picture, and I am quite sure that the film will be much better understood from this point of view by Israelis than by audiences abroad. If you look for the historic trends and for indications about things to come, it’s mandatory viewing, and it does not look like good news, but rather like a very strong warning signal from people who were in the middle of the policy making and security actions of Israel.


(video source SupaDupaMovieTrailer)


I believe that this film should be seen by as many people as possible and debated in Israel. Best would be probably a screening on prime time TV, but I am not optimistic about this happening soon as prime time TV in Israel seems to be almost fully booked by (i)reality shows. At least, by now The Gatekeepers is distributed commercially and the audiences seem to be interested. However, the more echoes may come from abroad, especially as the film is a candidate for the Oscar in the documentary category, certainly if it also wins the award. The editing of the film is smart, the combination between historical footage and computerized effects puts even more life into the illustrations, and the permanent images of the big screens as a symbol of the technology used to permanently supervise the territories is haunting. I have seen however much more sophisticated technical means put at work in documentaries. ‘The Gatekeepers’ is eventually a talking heads movie and is important because of the stories that the talking heads tell and the message that they deliver.




The Hebrew name of the film is a little longer than the one chosen by the distributors for the English version. It reads ‘The Mission of the Human Resources Manager’ and actually the word used is ‘shlihut’ which has a wider significance – it means not only mission, but also the acts of performing an important duty, or of being a messenger for important news. The news in this case are about a death, but the film touches only marginally the reasons and the absurdity of that death, and deals more about how the people who remained in life cope with the disappearance and how this impacts their lives – including the one of the messenger.


source http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1311075/


Based on a novel of AB Yehoshua the film tells the story of the aftermath of a terror attack, one of these crazy suicidal acts that took place during the second intifada about a decade ago. One of the victims of the attack is identified quite lately as a Romanian woman working a manual job in a bakery in the town. A beautiful woman whose face we know only from a photo and later from a short film made on a phone, whose body nobody came to claim or identify because she was one of the thousand of foreign workers who come to Israel and perform hard and low paid works nobody else wants to do in order to support their families back home. The duty to take the coffin with the body home to Romania, and try to compensate the family there  falls on the manager of the human resources (the absurdity of the terminology is so well exposed by this film), a man who has problems of his own – solidly acted by Mark Ivanir, an actor I did not notice until now – he works more for the TV and games industry in the US, here he gets an opportunity to make a serious role in an Israeli film, and does it fine.  What results is a trip in unknown territory for the Jerusalemite clerk and the journalist accompanying him (Guri Alfi, better known here as a stand-up comedian), a clash not only of two different cultures and but also of different approaches to life and death.


(video source potentialfilm)


The film is not bad, but it’s a missed opportunity. Made in 2010, a year when both the Romanian and Israeli films industry were riding high on waves of success, it could have brought together some of the best in the two schools of cinematography – the Israeli dramatic school of political cinema which after decades of avoiding the tough questions raised by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict succeeded in a few film that take a sharp and uncompromising look at the issues and the Romanian minimalist realism which looks back to the Communist era and the transition that followed, and also to the contemporary chaotic situation in Romania not only with anger, but also with humor and especially with human understanding. Amazingly, director Eran Riklis‘ style and place in the Israeli cinema fits rather well the Romanian cinema style. The problem lies in the folklorist approach taken in dealing with the Romanian reality. If the Israeli team would have taken a local director as consultant, they could have maybe avoided some of the stereotypes of the script. I should say that the Romanian actors do their best to fill in the holes of the story on this respect, but this is not always enough. Even so, it’s a pleasure to see great actors like Irina Petrescu (a Romanian legend) or Gila Almagor who can be considered as her Israeli counterpart on the same cast (although they never meet on screen). And more than all, this is the last and final role in the career of Rozina Cambos. Despite its flaws Riklis’ film has enough good parts to make for an interesting viewing.