Israeli movies and Israeli film in general have a long history of greatness including winning awards at the American Academy Awards. In fact, Israeli movies have been nominated for more awards for Best Foreign Language Film than any all other Middle Eastern countries.Israeli CDs have also been popular worldwide.
Israeli film has been around since the Nation’s independence in 1948, but the roots of Israeli movies originate back to the early 1900s when silent movies were popular in the Jewish neighbourhoods of what was then Palestine. Future inspiration for Israeli movies could be found in places such as Café Lorenz in the Neve Tzedek neighbourhood in 1905.
The earliest Israeli movies made in former Palestine were news reals shown in movie theatres before the start of movies. Perhaps the first Jewish film made in Israel was ‘This is the Land’ in 1935 by Baruch Agadati.
As the popularity of Israeli movies grew, over 2 ½ million Israelis visited movie theatres across the country more than 50 million times in 1966. With the arrival of broadcast television in 1968, Israeli film in Israeli cinema became less and less popular while Israeli found it more comfortable to stay home and get their dose of Israeli movies.
One genre of Israeli film unique to Israel is the Bourekas Film, named as a play on words from the famous American Spaghetti Western genre. Famous in the 1960s and 1970s, Bourekas Israeli movies focused on comedy in Israeli cultural divides particularly between the Sephardic and Ashkenazi Jews.
Though Bourekas films have not maintained their popularity in Israeli movies, they are still recognized by Israelis as a cultural icon and source of nostalgia.
Another major genre in Israeli movies, and one that it much more prevalent today are military Israeli movies that often tell meaningful, moving stories about conflict, and the difficult life of soldiers in combat. These Israeli movies are mostly recognized for their ability to colour a conflict and help their audiences see that life in Israel is not as black and white as some may believe. Such Israeli movies are often screenplays developed from Israeli books
Several of these Israeli movies have won or been nominated at the Oscars including the well-known and well-received Israeli film ‘Waltz With Bashir’. Other popular Israeli movies include genres such as Holocaust films and a new form of satirical comedy where Israeli film makers satirise well-known Israeli landmarks and cultural stigmas that all Israelis recognise. One such example is the 2010 Israeli film ‘Zohi Sdom’.
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Development of Israeli Film
Israel has been nominated for more Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film than any other country in the Middle East. The film industry that began in Palestine accelerated after the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948. In those days, Israeli films were mainly documentaries or news stories. Such films were shown at the cinema before the beginning of a movie and represented a great way to keep Israelis updated.
The first film studios were established in Herzliya, just North of Tel Aviv in the 1950s. In response, in 1954 – the Knesset, or Parliament of Israel, passed the “Law for the Encouragement of Israeli Films”. This brought benefits to the film industry and led to the creation of many classic Israeli films that would otherwise have not existed.
Themes and Genres
The “Romeo and Juliet” idea was often manipulated for comedic reasons in Israeli film – there were many films highlighting tension between different classes and ethnic groups via romantic intentions. “Bourekas” films became a popular genre whose central theme was the conflict between Mizrahi Jews (usually portrayed as poor but canny) and Ashkenazi Jews whose connotation was wealthy and arrogant. These films are famous for slapstick humour, and accent imitations of Jews from Morocco, Poland, and elsewhere.
Israeli films from this era became cult classics and can still be found on Israeli television. They represent the same style of spaghetti western found in America.
The Ophir Awards, also known as the Israeli Oscars were first given out in 1982 to recognise people who made a significant mark on the film industry. The winner of the Best Film Award each year is chosen to represent Israel at the American Academy Awards. The film “Nina’s Tragedies” won 11 awards – the most of any individual film; and Assi Dayan has won the award 8 times, making him the only person to win as a director, screenwriter and actor.
Today, movie theatres throughout Israel are ultra-modern and show almost all American Hollywood films, Israeli films, and others from all over the world.