Israeli Film

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Developments in cinema were also running parallel to developments nationally, as the [1967] Six-Day War changed Israel's view of itself. Israelis were bored with the Zionist fables, and were less worried about imminent destruction. However, there was no context in which to place the cinematic innovations as there was elsewhere. In literature, there was an uninterrupted tradition going back thousands of years, and writers were able to draw on a rich heritage to lend resonance and context to their work. In film, forging a modern native tradition with artistic integrity proved more difficult.

Uri Zohar's Three Days and a Child (1967), based on a short story by A.B. Yehoshua, garnered Oded Kotler the Best Actor Award at the 1967 Cannes Film Festival. It is a psychological drama, which explores the ambivalence of a man during three days when he baby-sits the son of his ex-girlfriend. It strives, in ways the story does not, to normalize life in Israel and the existential dilemmas faced by its citizens. However, this very effort makes it less successful than the work by Yehoshua, who knows that nothing universal can arise without attention to the particular, and that Jerusalem is not Paris. Despite its lack of complete success, the film is of seminal significance in its effort to project a fully realized artistic vision onto the screen.

The '70s saw the ascendancy of the so-called "bourekas films." Many Israelis looked to these home-grown farces (and some melodramas) for an escape from the tension of their lives. In no way sophisticated, and as unpretentious and insubstantial as the pastries that gave them their name, these bourekas films fit the bill.

Finally, in 1978 the Fund for the Encouragement of Quality Israeli Cinema was established. Not coincidentally, the second wave of Kayitz filmmakers emerged in the late '70s and early '80s. One of the most important members of this generation is Uri Barabash, whose made-for-television drama, My First Sony, is being screened at the Israel Film Festival. His work deals with issues like mental illness, the rehabilitation of criminals, and the pressures of basic training. His most well-known film is Beyond the Walls (1986), which deals with Arab-Jewish relations in a prison and was nominated for an Academy Award.

In the 1990s, Israeli cinema came of age in many ways. The expanded population and economy, along with a less defensive, insular perspective of Israeli society, have contributed to an explosion in both the quantity and quality of films. Many Israelis stopped going to domestic films at the time of the bourekas movies, and continue reflexively to avoid local productions. Others see all films as ambassadors, and thus want them to represent Israel in the best light possible.

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