Israeli Cinema Term Paper

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cinematic image of the Sabra beginning with the early Zionist films, through the national-heroic mode, and ending with the critical attitude of the late 1970s and 1980s

The 1955 film Hill 24 Doesn't Answer is one of the first products of Israeli cinema. It is meant to be a stirring portrait of the new Jewish state. It dramatizes the then-recent war of independence. The film shows the war bringing together Jews of disparate backgrounds, all united by the need to defend Israel. "In Israeli culture, the figure of the Sabra" during the time period when Hill was made was considered a kind of ideal national type, exemplifying the new Jewish attitude that was free from fear and persecution (Avisar 132). The national ideal of a state that could triumph against all odds and was strong, both spiritually and militarily, is conveyed by the film through the physical strength and determination of the soldiers.

In one scene, one of the soldiers confronts a Nazi who uses the fact that he is a prisoner of war as his defense, and hides behind the words that 'he was just following orders.' He begs for forgiveness in an attempt to preserve his life. The silent Israeli soldier shows tremendous strength and power in the scene over the man, embodying how the new Israel can never be beholden to anti-Semites again. The group of soldiers fighting for Israel is remarkable for its diversity, and collectively they symbolize the multinational unity of the new Jewish state.

Hill 24 Doesn't Answer, although sensitively directed, is fundamentally a heroic war film. However, as Israel grew more established as a nation, its cinematic culture began to move beyond the purely patriotic and adopt a slightly more critical lens. For example, the 'cult classic' Israeli film Charlie Ve'hetzi (1974) takes a far more deflationary view of Israel. It portrays the central character Charlie as a ne'er do-well but likeable con man who plays three-card Monte to make a living. Virtually every other word out of Charlie's mouth is a lie, as he tries to pass himself off as rich and successful. He is a bad influence on a young boy who admires him and hangs out with Charlie instead of going to school. The film itself is not surprising in the sense that it features an antihero (many films of the era did, not just Israeli films) but the fact that the comedy is clearly directed at an Israeli audience, about Israelis is a clear step forward in Israel's national cinematic maturity. Hill 24 Doesn't Answer, is, in contrast, clearly is intended as a message to the world, proclaiming the new values and strength of the Jewish state. But merely because Charlie is a resident of Israel and a Sabra does not make him above the morality of the other nationalities that appear in the film, such as the wealthy American businessman his beloved Gila's parents want her to wed.

In the contemporary era, Israeli cinema has shown a far more intensely self-critical eye upon the military strength that was once its nation's proudest accomplishment. Eyal, the hero of Walking on Water, is a Sabra who is capable of killing in a silent and deadly fashion, thanks to his Mossad training. However, he is also depressed -- his wife has committed suicide, and it is later revealed in the film that he is thinking of giving up his job as a secret agent because he feels as if he is a killing machine that can give no life to others. The politics of the past are clearly shown to affect Israel's present, as Eyal's relatives were killed by the Nazis when he was growing up, a fact which is used by his superior to goad him into assassinating an ex-Nazi as revenge.

But rather than asking whether Israel can defend itself (for in the film there is no question that it can), Walking on Water asks the question if it this type of destruction is truly beneficial for the contemporary residents of the land. Israel's sense of cultural identity -- its common 'rootedness,' and sense of collective unity, myths, traditions and distinctiveness is no longer in question and in need of being established in a heroic format alone, and instead can be questioned as well as affirmed (Smith 195).

Q2. Discuss the changes in the cinematic depiction of Holocaust survivors and collective memory, beginning with the post-Zionist approach of the late 1970s, and ending with…[continue]

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