Saturday, June 26, 2010

Israel's Flourishing Cinema

I have been intrigued by Israeli films at least since seeing Time of Favor, Joseph Cedar's debut film, five or ten years ago. A string of much-acclaimed Israeli films I have not yet seen make me think some sort of movie series may be in order this fall.

Waltz with Bashir, Ari Folman's animated account of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon, came out in 2008, garnering high praise for both its form and content.

Last year Samuel Moaz released Lebanon, another account of the 1982 conflict. In spite of critical acclaim, Lebanon has yet to receive widespread release, perhaps because of its controversial depiction of the war. However, it has received plaudits for a variety of reasons, including its powerful portrayal of the main character's (very limited) visual perspective.

Now Scandar Copti (a Palestinian) and Yaron Shani (a Jewish Israeli) bring us Ajami, a drama set in the rival Jewish and Arab neighborhoods of Tel Aviv-Jaffa.

After reading Nigel Andrews' recent review of Ajami, I realized how much I have neglected this corpus of films. Israel is arguably the single most important nation in the modern Middle East, an important and war-torn region. These films address fundamental issues of war, religion and identity, some of the most important in life. That they do so with a high degree of insight and artfulness only heightens my desire for more Israeli cinema in my life.
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