Last week we sent a Mazal Tov to Israeli film director Haim Tabakman, whose flick “Eyes Wide Open“ has won awards in the MedFilm Festival in Rome, as well as the Ghent Film Festival in Belgium. Now I am happy to report more Israeli cinema news.
This time the moving picture entertainment comes to the public under the auspices of one jointly directed project by Yaron Shani Jewish Israeli and Skander Copti an Israeli born Arab. The film is called Ajami. Also we want to tell you about another film that is in a much different vein called “Defamation“.
The joint project will be the first Arabic language film to represent Israel at the Oscars. Shot as a raw documentary, the film is about life in Ajami, a former slum in Jaffa. The documentary portrays the street life of impoverished Israeli Arabs, who are caught on film carrying out brutal mafia-style murders and other crime.
The movie has already won the Israeli Ophir and Wolgin prizes and was even honored with special mention at Cannes.
The other Israeli film to be on the lookout for is “Defamation” by director Yoav Shamir. This documentary is a first-person excursion into the taboo subject of anti-Semitism. The filmmaker explains that it is a phenomenon which he has heard of but never actually witnessed first-hand. The idea of the film is that anti-Semitism matters less today than many Jews care to admit, or would like to believe.
But the film does not actually become quite as cold as that. Instead his aim is examining the moral effect on Diaspora Jews and Israelis, of their fear of anti-Semites. The previous description is more of the way which Shamir teases his audience into watching the film.
The film’s greatest moment and example of anti-Semitism comes from his grandmother in Jerusalem who says, “Jews? They’re nothing but schemers and layaboutsâ€¦liquor-store owners and interest gougers, too lazy to do any real work but skilled in every sharp practice.”
Regrettably, Ari Folman’s animated doco-fantasy film â€œWaltz with Bashirâ€ didn’t win the Best Foreign Film at the 2009 Academy Awards presentation in Hollywood. With just a month passing after winning the Golden Globes film award, the American film industry second biggest awards extravaganza, hope had been high that Folman’s film would pull it off, especially due to its strong anti-war message. But Folman and his crew of animators, writers, artists and other team players had to sit by and see the Japanese film, Departures, win the coveted Oscar.
In a way, this event displays similarities to the results of the recent parliamentary election in which Tzipi Livni’s Kadima party managed to edge out over the rival Likud party, headed by Binyamin (Bibi) Netanyahu. Even though Kadima managed to gain more seats (actually 1 more) than Bibi’s party did, the Likiud has been given the nod by Israeli President Shimon Peres to form the next coalition government. Bibi’s right-of-center party has a lot of friends in the Knesset, including the right winged â€œIsrael Beitenuâ€ party, headed by Avigdor Lieberman, and the ultra-right winged â€œIhud Leumiâ€ (National Union) party headed by Benny Alon. The Likud party’s ideologies also make it easier to bring at least two religious political parties, â€œShasâ€ and â€œHa-Bayit Ha-Yeâ€™udiâ€ (Jewish Home) into its fold as well, to guarantee enough Knesset seats to form the next government. Livni’s center movement party can only hope to pick up some of the left winged parties such as the now deflated Labor Party, headed by Ehud Barak, and others such as Meretz – a very left-winged party formerly headed by such liberals as Yossi Sarid and Dr. Yossi Beilin.
And just like the character in Waltz had to cope with life in Israel in the aftermath of the war, so does Livni and her party have to cope with the aftermath of both the 2006 Second Lebanon War (in which her party, headed by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, was accused of committing a number of blunders) and the just completed Operation Cast Lead foray in Gaza. Netanyahu has the advantage of being able to use the security element to convince parties with similar ideologies to join up with him and control Israeli politics for the next 4 year period; or until another election is held, as has been too often the case.
Israeli politics sometimes create strange bedfellows, however, and Tzipi may decide in the end that discretion is the better part of valor and decide to join Bibi’s governing coalition. If this happens she will get her “waltz” in the end; but the question will be with whom she winds up dancing with.