Filmmakers mark Israel's founding with new voice
Sixty years after the founding of Israel, a new breed of filmmakers is emerging to give a different voice to the Jewish state.
Berlin -- After losing its way during the late 1980s, Israeli cinema has bounced back in the last half a dozen years with the nation's filmmakers winning international recognition of their movies, in particular at the world's leading international film festivals.
This includes Israeli director Joseph Cedar's Beaufort, an anti-war film about his nation's 2000 withdrawal from southern Lebanon, which has been nominated for an Academy Award as the best foreign language film.
"We are here," said Katriel Schory, executive director of the Israel Film Fund was the message from Israeli filmmakers in recent years.
More to the point, success at the Oscars would help to consolidate Israeli's film industry's new role on the world cinema stage.
"Israeli movies have improved a lot in quality in the last five or six years," said Jerusalem-born director Amos Kollek at a press conference marking the premiere of his latest film, Restless, at the Berlin Film Festival.
Restless is one of 21 films competing for the festival's top honors, a Golden Bear, and tells the story of an Israeli man, Moshe living in New York who is suddenly contacted by the son he never knew and as a consequence forced to confront his failures in life.
While there is no official tribute, the Berlinale is commemorating the 60th anniversary of the founding of Israel by screening a raft of new movies from Israeli directors.
This includes a documentary from Israeli director Dror Moreh about former soldier-turned Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who remains in a coma and Lemon Tree from Eran Riklis, which tells the story of a Palestinian woman's decision to take on the Israeli authorities.
"There has been a new generation of filmmakers who have learnt to tell their story in a more engaging and communicative way," said Schory, who was also attending the Berlinale.
Another factor in helping Israeli filmmakers to gain their new found recognition Schory said was the way they approached their subjects in "a very open and free spirited way and critical way," said Schory.
While the seemingly intractable Middle East conflict is often in the backdrop of many Israeli movies, the films screened at the Berlinale also help to underscore the drive by the nation's film directors to broaden the themes they explore in their films.
And as a result, to delve into questions such as the religious and cultural conflicts that are often a part of Israeli life.
This in turn has helped to widen their international appeal with Jellyfish (Meduzot) from Etgar Keret and Shira Geffen, which tells the story of three very different Tel Aviv women winning the prestigious Camera d'Or (Golden Camera) at last year's Cannes Film Festival.
Also selected for the main competition in Cannes last year was Tehilim, directed by Raphael Nadjari, which touched on the conflict in Israel over religion.
Indeed, other Israeli films such as Dror Shaul's Sweet Mud, a coming-of-age tale set in a 1970's kibbutz which last year won the Sundance Film Festival's best international feature prize or Eran Kolirin's The Band Visit, which was a popular hit at Cannes last year have helped to raise the global profile of Israeli cinema.
The recent international success of Israeli film has also feed through to the nation's box office with the industry bolstered by changes to the country's film financing.
A decade ago, only 36,000 of the 10 million movie tickets sold in Israel were for the country's films. Now about 1.4 million of Israeli cinema audiences buy tickets for their nation's movies.
In Riklis' The Lemon Tree, a Palestinian woman Salma, the owner of a lemon grove, discovers that her new neighbor is the Israeli defense minister. This results in the Israeli authorities ordering that the lemon trees be removed because they represent a security threat.
"It's a film about people who are trapped in a political situation," said Riklis.
Natalie Assouline's Brides of Allah, which was also screened at this year's Berlinale, is about the women who were involved in suicide bombings on Israel.
Flipping Out from Israeli director Yoav Shamir, another movie to screened in Berlin, tells the story of young Israelis experimenting with drugs after being released from their compulsory three-year military service.
DPA with Expatica