Each month, Zeek publishes a new work of U.S. fiction. This month, meet an artist and two lovers, fire and water, death by drowning. Whose voice speaks the truth?
Like many locales that are retroactively said to have had garage rock scenes, Iran was not a country where many people actually had garages. It still isn’t. To imagine young Iranians hammering out tunes in a subdivision of three-bedroom homes with two-car garages is to indulge a fantasy that is simultaneously economic and political. We are drawn to the vision of an Iranian garage scene in the 1960s precisely because we perceive it as a future past. And we are drawn to Raks Raks Raks because it gives us hope that it is not a future past redemption.
Yossel Birstein (1920-2003) was a significant talent, “on par with Kafka and Agnon,” according to critic Menachem Perry. Birstein’s wanderings, and his ideological convictions cut through with irony, make him an intriguing symbol of the vagaries of modern Jewish life.
According to the infamous Israeli director, a filmmaker cannot explore violence without becoming subjected to it, as its victim or, more probably, as its perpetrator. Zeek’s film editor, Shai Ginsburg, gets to the bottom of Avi Mograbi’s unique approach to documentary productions.
The Holocaust remains a key trope for the construction of Jewish identity. In this memoir, a frum family comes to accept the rabbinic ordination of Rabbi Pamela by recalling the memory of her namesake, Grandmother Pessel, who fought for her own liberation from the Nazis.
During the 1980s, Israeli filmmakers were preoccupied with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In the 1990s, they explored the dynamic between Israel’s urban centers and the country’s periphery. The past decade has witnessed a rise in films that seek to portray the experience of communities previously considered marginal to Israeli cinema. Avi Nesher’s latest drama, The Secrets (Israel/France, 2007), joins a host of recent Israeli films, both feature-length and documentary, which explore Israel’s ultra-orthodox community.
Since its release in 1982, Jacob Goldwasser’s first feature, Under The Nose (Mitahat La’af) has acquired cult status in Israel, setting the cinematic standard for portraying domestic social problems for many years to come. To mark its 25th anniversary in 2007, Under The Nose was released on DVD. A script book was also recently published which included an interview with the director and the scriptwriter, three essays, and a short story inspired by the film — a rare event for a cultural scene in which the study of film is sparse.
The San Francisco Jewish Film Festival requires little introduction. Now in its twenty-ninth year, the annual summertime event has turned into the most important global gathering of its kind. Transforming the west coast American city into a temporary stand-in for Berlin or Cannes, albeit a Jewish version, is no small feat. Nor is the festival’s distinction for helping serve as the North American starting point for some of Israel and Europe’s most significant new Jewish productions.
Defamation is contentious, malicious even, to some, because it’s director refuses to accept at face value the belief that Jews are always victims of racism, and sets out to find out who makes such claims today, and why.
If you haven’t seen it before, Mosaic will change the way you think about the Middle East. A thirty-minute daily news report aggregating content from the region’s major television news outlets, this seven-year old program airing on Link TV has skyrocketed in popularity among North American viewers. Why? Because, to paraphrase Jamal Dajani, Mosaic’s producer, his show is helping air a new regional identity which includes both Israeli and Arab voices from throughout the Middle East.
Ostensibly, Joseph Cedar’s film Beaufort (Israel, 2007) portrays the denouement of the first Lebanon war, which came to an end with Israel’s withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000. Undoubtedly, however, it seeks to comment on Israeli society in the aftermath of the second Lebanon war. Following Time of Favor(2000) and Campfire(2004) Beaufort is Cedar’s third film. Currently showing in Israel to both critical acclaim and commercial success, Beaufort has already garnered the prize for best director in this year’s Berlin Film Festival.
Tamar Yarom’s 2007 documentary To See If I’m Smiling is a fascinating, yet disturbing study of the effect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the Israeli psyche. The film is comprised of interviews with six female military veterans, who did much of their active duty in the Occupied Territories, in Judea and Samaria and in the Gaza Strip prior to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory.
Whenever I return to Israel, I always make a point of listening to local talk shows and reading as many magazines as possible. If you want to gauge changes in public opinion quickly, there’s no better way to do it. My last trip back to Israel, in June, is no exception. The following are my incidental observations.
The recent stream of successful Israeli features—The Band’s Visit, Waltz with Bashir, and Beaufort, to name the most obvious—has significantly raised the bar for Israeli filmmakers. No longer can we consider oursleves satisfied by a well-made, albeit Israeli film. Rather, inclined moviegoers are lead to expect extraordinary cinematic experiences, of the kind that an increasing number of Israeli films simply cannot provide.
It is difficult to categorize Ari Folman ’s extraordinary film Waltz with Bashir: a cinematic autobiography, a war documentary, a meditation on trauma and memory, a hybrid of reality and fiction, or an acid-like cinematic trip. Every category equally applies.
Whether it be in the US, Europe, or Israel, filmmakers are demonstrating a renewed interest in World War II, specifically the Jewish Holocaust. Stephen Daldry’s The Reader, starring Academy Award winner Kate Winslet, Adam Resurrected directed by Paul Schrader, Boaz Yakin’s Death in Love, Amos Gitai’s Later, starring Jeanne Moreau ,and Uri Barabash’s Spring 1941 are perhaps the best examples. The question is why? What is spurring a renewal of cinematographic interest in the Shoah at this point in time?
In his film Voices from El-Sayed, Oded Adomi Leshem tackles the often-neglected issue of Israel’s unrecognized Bedouin villages. Contrary to stereotype, Israeli Bedouins lead a sedentary, non-nomadic life. 170,000 Bedouins reside in the Negev Desert, in the south of Israel, in some 46 villages and small towns. It is rarely noted, however, that between 40% and 50% live in one of 36 unrecognized settlements.
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