"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel", is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

My next speaking tour to North America will be in October 2015! Contact me if you are interested in my speaking in your community. My contact info: amykronish@gmail.com

Sunday, November 22, 2015

The Female Perspective

Women in Sink is a documentary film about women in Haifa.  In a particularly creative move, filmmaker Iris Zaki takes her camera and connects it to a metal pipe in front of the women as they are having their hair shampooed in a salon.   

The filmmaker has chosen a fascinating way to get women talking -- by catching them at Fifi's Salon in an Arab neighborhood in Haifa. Here, the women talk about love, politics, children, and more.   The result is an insightful and honest short documentary film about contemporary Israeli society.  
The multi-ethnic clientele tell wonderful stories, as Iris washes their hair and interviews them in this particularly intimate and vulnerable female setting.  One woman talks about her mother who was born and brought up Jewish and married her father, a Christian Arab.  Some of her siblings consider themselves Jewish but she is a believing Christian.  The hair stylist is a Christian Arab woman and she feels that she belongs here.  In fact, her daughter served in the army and matured a lot as a result of that experience.  Another woman talks about the deterioration in relations between Christians and Muslims today, especially in Nazareth.  Another talks about the empathy and sensitivity of women.  If only political matters were in the hands of women, then things might be different!

Iris Zaki plays multiple roles in this film -- film director, producer, investigative reporter and shampoo assistant.  She concludes that there is something special in the friendship and acceptance between women and she says it gives her hope. 

Women in Sink was the winner of two big awards -- best short doc at Haifa Film Festival last month and special jury award at Karlovy Vary. The film (36 minutes, documentary) is available from Go2Films

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Father-son relations

Baba Joon, directed by Yuval Delshad, is a new Israeli feature film which won five Israeli  Ophir awards this year, including for best film, cinematography, art direction and score. The title of the film is a Farsi term of endearment, similar to "papa".  In fact, the film is in both Hebrew and Farsi. 

This is a story of a multi-generational family, living on a religious moshav in the Negev during the 1980s.  Yitzhak runs the family turkey business, which his father built up when they emigrated from Iran. Yitzhak, as his father was before him, is very strict with his son, demanding that he continue the ways of the family.  Now, he wants his son, Moti, to learn the business.  It's hard work and not very exciting for a growing adolescent boy, who is more interested in tinkering and inventing things in the family's junkyard.   

On another level, this is a story of the immigrant generation clashing with the creative and vibrant Israeli-born  generation over issues of family, tradition and personal freedom -- one generation is keeping the old ways of life and the other is inventing new ones.

Although a peripheral figure, the boy's mother has the role of peace-maker in the family. She tells her husband, Yitzhak, who is a domineering and stubborn father, "A tree that can't bend in a storm will break."

According to the filmmaker (from the film's website) -- Conflicts between father and son take place in every country in the world, in any profession, whether in a city or a village or any patriarchal society where men hold all the authority and pass it down through the generations. Every parent’s desire to care for their children’s future and keep them close is natural, and yet it clashes with every young person’s will to forge a path of their own, sometimes far away from their parents. In the extreme cases where the parent insists on stopping his child’s will, he will often find himself falling short of his goal and alienating his children instead.

This is not a complex story, but it is certainly touching, compelling and even a bit exotic.  In this day and age, when our relations with Iran are so tense and people are truly worried about preventing a nuclear disaster, along comes a new filmmaker who creates a semi-autobiographical statement that reminds us that many Israelis originally came from Iran.

Baba Joon is produced by United King Films.  Check out the film's website to view the trailer and for distribution info.

Friday, November 6, 2015

In Memory of Yitzhak Rabin

This week, in memory of Yitzhak Rabin, my husband and I went to see a biopic of his life.  The film, Rabin in His Own Words (by Erez Laufer) was a compelling and insightful documentary film.  

 It covers both Rabin's private and public lives and begins with his childhood and the early period, including his early days in the Palmach, his military service in the IDF, his political career up to and including the Oslo Accords.  The entire narration is from Rabin's interviews, speeches and letters, which is quite a remarkable feat, and the visuals include wonderful family photos and very special archival footage.

In my husband Ron's review of the film on his blog for the Times of Israel , he wrote that "This was one of the most beautiful and inspiring Israeli documentaries that I have ever seen, and I was very moved by it. It was personal, poignant and professionally done."  For the complete review see his blog.

The film offers a loving portrait of the man, but it doesn't hesitate to grapple with difficult issues, including the forced evacuation of the Arabs of Lod during the War of Independence, his 24-hour panic attack prior to the Six Day War, and his wife's bank account in Washington DC which was the trigger that forced him to resign after his first period as prime minister and which opened the door for the Likud to win the ensuing elections.  More importantly, the film covers the man's greatest achievements, including his intensive work with Kissinger, during the period of shuttle diplomacy, to pave the way for peace with Egypt, and the tremendously brave step he took in signing a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat.  With hindsight, many might belittle the Oslo Accords, but it is clear that this is what permitted Rabin to conclude a peace agreement with Jordan and opened the door for the Vatican to finally formally recognize the State of Israel.  

The film, which won an award for "best film" at the Haifa Film Festival, still has many upcoming screenings at Cinematheques around the country.  I highly recommend it!

Rabin in His Own Words (documentary, 112 minutes) is distributed by Menemsha Films.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Nahum Heiman

Nah'che, directed by Anat Goren, is an exciting documentary film about the legendary Israeli folksong composer, Nahum Heiman (nicknamed Nah'che), winner of the Israel Prize for his contribution to Israeli folk music, a man who composed hundreds of songs, so many of which have become popular with the Israeli public. 

The film opens with Nah'che at the age of 79, moving from his home to a town where they have named the town square in his honor!  The filmmaker makes use of much footage from public homages to Nah'che, and the viewer has the opportunity to see and hear so many of his songs being performed.
The film confronts his troubled relationship with his daughter, Si, herself a well-known singer.  Their professions are intertwined, yet so different.  He mainly composes.  She is a talented singer.  His genre is folk.  Hers is rock.  His style is more restrained.  Hers is passionate and strong.  

Nah'che is not a biopic in the regular sense.  Rather, it is a portrait of a man who has great charm, who has composed beautifully touching songs, a film about his joie de vivre.  This documentary film (70 minutes) is available from Maya Weinberg (mayafilmfest@gmail.com). 

Recommended documentaries about Israeli composers and performers that might go nicely with this one in a series on Israeli music (all of these have been previously reviewed on this blog) --

  • Wind, Darkness, Water (directed by Yahaly Gat) about the legendary, Naomi Shemer
  • The Hungarian Cube (directed by Gilad Inbar) about the composer, Andre Hajdu
  • Rita Jahan Foruz (directed by Ayal Goldberg) about the singer, Rita