Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Director: Award Winning Israeli films are "mediocre or worse"

In a crushing interview with Haaretz, noted Israeli Director Dover Kosashvili trashes this past year's euphoria in the Israeli movie industry, calling films that won awards "mediocre or worse."

"They're celebrating like this is genuine success," but "it's a load of rubbish."

He attacked the unprecedented success abroad of movies such as:

Ari Folman's "Waltz with Bashir" (Golden Globe for best foreign language film and France's Cesar for best foreign film)

Samuel Maoz's "Lebanon" (first Israeli director to win first prize at the Venice Film Festival)

What's even more interesting, is his reason "why" such mediocre films are winning global awards. The Haaretz English edition left this out altogether, but the Hebrew edition partly explains it...and an interview I heard today on IDF Radio fully explained it.

The recent films all have a common theme: they show Israel spitting at itself and airing Israel's dirty laundry for all to see in public.

This would also explain the success of Yossi Sieder's films:

Beaufort A movie about a 22 year-old outpost IDF commander, and his troops in the months before Israel pulled out of Lebanon. This is not a story of war, but of retreat. This is a story with no enemy, only an amorphous entity that drops bombs from the skies while terrified young soldiers must find a way to carry out their mission until their very last minutes on that mountaintop. As LIRAZ lays the explosives which would destroy that very same structure that his friends had died defending, he witnesses the collapse of all he's been taught as an officer, and his soldier's mental and physical disintegration (IMDB)

Medurat Hashevet The story of a religious-socially shunned young widow, who wants to join the founding group of a new religious settlement in the West Bank, but first must convince the acceptance committee that she is worthy. Things get even more complicated when the younger daughter is accused of seducing some boys from her Bnei Akiva youth movement. (IMDB)

Ha-Hesder In a West Bank settlement, Rabbi Meltzer has a grand design: he's building a movement "to pray at the Temple Mount." His yeshiva has scholars, and the settlement is getting its own military company to be commanded by Menachem, a disciple of the rabbi. He also wants his daughter, Michal, to marry Pini, the yeshiva's best scholar. Michal has no interest in Pini, but she is attracted to Menachem. When she rebuffs Pini, he hatches a bold and secret plan. Is jealousy the motivation or something else? Meanwhile, the army and Moussad are closely watching the rabbi's activities and Menachem's military training. Settlers try to blow up the Temple Mount. (IMDB)

So...if you're an aspiring Israeli Director who wants to win a prestigious film award, just ensure it bashes the IDF, Israel, Right Wingers, Religious Jews, or Settlers.

Quality not Required.


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23 comments:

Commenter Abbi said...

I've always seen the director's name spelled as Josef Cedar in English. And I actually loved Medurat Hashevet. I loved the way he portrayed early 80's Israel and he nailed Bayit V'gan and the insularity of the settler movement. I'm sure it made you uncomfortable when Assi Dayan explains how only a "certain demographic" can be excepted to the new yishuv. Buy, hey, that's life.

I always find it curious when pple criticize a movie because they don't like the airing of dirty laundry. Directors are not obliged to make movies that make their compatriots "look good". A good director has a vision and makes a movie based on that vision, whether or not it makes other look good or bad or whatever.

I've heard a lot of the same criticism of the Coen brothers' "A Serious Man" , that it's antisemitic because to portrays Jews in a bad light. If a moviegoer objects to movies because they make a community look bad, then don't go to movies.

Anonymous said...

No one is saying that freedom of expression should be limited. The point is that it is most often the case that any anti-Israel trash is acclaimed over-seas, in movies, in books, & even politicians & academics. I have yet to see a film sympathetic to right-wing views that gets a favourable reaction from primarily left-leaning critics.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Abbi: As you know, I have no qualms with Srugim, which sometimes paints a less than flattering picture of the "srugim" crowd.

As anonymous wrote -- the point is that anything anti-Israel, (or anti-whatever I wrote in my post), then *thats* why it wins an award...specifically because it's critical of Israel.

And by the way -- I didn't make this post up -- it was all clearly stated on Galei Tzahal this morning (around 8:45 AM) -- including the "anti-Israel" remark.

Morey Altman said...

While it's true some Israeli filmmakers recognize that films which denounce Israel will have more success in the international market, there is another aspect: it is almost impossible today to even make a film without international co-producers; there's simply not enough government or private sector support for the film industry and our population is too small to support multiple productions. Most young filmmakers quickly learn that if they want Dutch or French financial support they cannot make a film which is too pro-Israel. I've heard this repeatedly from filmmakers and distributors. So, the onus, in part, is upon us to finance our films internally so we're not influenced by the needs and wants of foreign investors.

avi said...

Israeli movies are made by a small clique of Tel-Aviv directors and producers. Anyone who holds political views which aren't leftist has no chance to make it in that crowd and succeed in the business, no matter how talented. Film is also much more important in the culture of secular-leftist Israelis than religious people, so naturally more of them go into film school. The result is awful, politicized movies which are tailor-made for guilt ridden Europeans and the "Commenter Abbis" of the world. Naturally the above two groups become ecstatic when they see Israeli movies which provide justification for their prejudices and stick it to their political opponents, even though by any objective measurement the movies are crap (much like how almost every single anti-Semitic website features clippings from articles published in Haaretz). Meanwhile the average Israeli votes with his feet and watches American movies instead.

Commenter Abbi said...

Oy, Avi, you're obviously a first time reader here. If you were a regular, you would realize the ridiculousness of your characterization of me as "leftist".

Shmilda said...

Similar to Commenter Abbi, I enjoyed HaHesder tremendously. Everyone plays their stereotypical role well, from the rosh yeshivah's motivational sichot (which I could have written myself) to shabaknik who justs wants to kill them all.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Avi: I'll vouch for Abbi...she's not a leftist!

See her thoughtful comment on this post.

jmminy said...

Keep an eye on the Torat HaChaim Film School to change all of this!
http://www.thc.org.il/

Morey Altman said...

There's some truth to what Avi says, but at the same time, some of these old generalizations no longer hold true. For starters, you can't make assumptions about the religious community in this country; they're as divided on their attitudes toward film as anything else. And there has been great interest in the last 10 years amongst the observant community to tell more representative stories; there's even an Orthodox film school: Ma'ale in Jerusalem. There have been dozens of made-for-TV films and documentaries produced recently which tell more realistic stories about religious life. That they're not being seen outside of Israel (other than Jewish film festivals) has much to do with supply and demand. Where we will agree is the adulation we heap on films that truly are mediocre simply because they've done well internationally. But that's typical of every country. Canadians are used to seeing their best films ignored while low-budget slasher films make millions in the US. Again, supply and demand.

Incidentally, those Tel Aviv Leftists USED to make films which glorified the IDF, such as Hill 24 Doesn't Answer (1955), Sinai Commandos (1968), Operation Thunderbolt (1977) etc. The fact is they will make ANYTHING that makes money regardless of their personal views.

Commenter Abbi said...

Morey, thanks for bringing up Maale and Jameel, thanks for the backup, man!

I just want to add, that I'm not fond of many of these films myself (I wouldn't dream of even downloading Waltz and neither of the Lebanon films intrigue me.) OTOH, I wouldn't lament the fact that these are the films that get int'l backing and kudos. This is the state of the world. It's no surprise. And I wouldn't vilify these directors, necessarily. Although we do have a long tradition of "Mah Yafis Jews". My point is, you can't expect directors to pick up the slack in hasbara. Then they only become propagandists instead of artists.

And if it bothers Kosashvili so much, when's his next movie coming out? I loved A Late Wedding and I think he had something else come out, but it wasn't as big of a hit. But I would like to return to the movies of a decade ago that explored relationships and everyday Israeli life, rather than BIG POLITICAL ISSUES

YUngerman said...

I saw Medurat Hashevet also, and didn't think it was distinctly anti-religous. It's really about temptation and its ramifications, while the settler stuff is mostly background - although I agree with Abbi that the spirit of the movement and of Israeli life at that time is poignantly captured (not that I was born then :).

You can watch it here: http://www.hulu.com/watch/93533/campfire

I don't think Hulu works outside the states, sorry.

tafka pp said...

Oh, the sound of misinformity... go on about Tel Aviv cliques all you like, but the most awards and prizes have been won by graduates of Sam Spiegel Film School, which is in JERUSALEM.

Anat Zuria's films have all won awards- are they Israel-Bashing too??

As to the article: Dover K is just bitter, because he knows deep down that the film world is always going to find introspective cinematic examination of our conflict/identity more interesting than his Late Wedding, with the "longest ever s*x scene to be featured in a movie".

Morey Altman said...

Frankly, I take great pride in the fact that many of our veterans feel sadness and regret at their actions. This is HUMAN. As is their need for introspection and reflection on their wartime experiences. We are, after all, a family here, and when our brothers need to share these traumatic events of their pasts, we will listen and care for them. Unfortunately, the international community assumes these reflective works are meant to be seen as condemnations of Zionism or Judaism or whatever. Their expectations often determine their responses. That's their problem. In the meantime, we can support these films and take them as they are.

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

We can't forget either that Laizy Shapira, Director and Writer of Sruigm is also a product of Maaleh.

Tafka: Do you really think Dover K. is simply saying all this out of jealousy?

Why can't there be films in Israel by Israeli directors that doesn't need to focus on: arab/Jews, politics or the army?

There are so many other things to write about, where the above can simply be background instead of the focus.

When you see a movie from another country, you don't see and feel the tension of all these issues.

Find me a movie from the past 10 years from Israel, where, when the IDF is mentioned, there isn't always something negative about it?

Commenter Abbi said...

"(not that I was born then :)."

My husband lived in a different J-m neighborhood at that time and he can vouch for the movie's authenticity.

I actually wrote a post about the movie last month: http://startupwife.blogspot.com/2009/10/when-mom-cant-make-it-all-better.html

Commenter Abbi said...

Sorry, I completely disagree- Israeli cinema has almost never been about the "examination of our conflict/identity". The self flagellating Israeli films are a very a recent trend. When a Late Wedding came out there were a whole host of excellent Israeli films that included H'asonot shel Nina, Cochavim shel Shlomi, Turn Left at the End of the World. None of these had anything to do with the conflict or our identity. They were about characters, relationships, Israeli society. Nothing political whatsoever.

Here's a good wiki page about Israeli cinema: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinema_of_Israel

Anonymous said...

Can you translate this passage to English, please? Haaretz English edition left it out


"היוצרים בינוניים ומטה": דובר קוסאשווילי לא חוגג עם הקולנוע הישראלייום רביעי 11 בנובמבר 2009 08:32 מאת: עידו רוזן, עכבר העיר אונליין



. ההתחנחנות של היוצרים הישראלים לפסטיבלים רק לוקחת אותנו אחורה".

. שישימו יד על הלב ויודו בזה שהסרטים בינוניים. בינתיים כבר אפשר לראות בסרטים את החיילים הישראלים אונסים פלשתינאיות. הרפש גואה, הביוב צף".

כשהוא נשאל מה אפשר לעשות כדי למנוע את המפלה הצפויה, אומר קוסאשווילי כי "הבעיה היא שהיוצרים בינוניים. איך עושים יוצרים לא בינוניים? רק אלוהים יודע. אין שיטה. אבל יש גם בעיה בכך שהקרנות תומכות בסרטים שיש להם יותר אפיל בעולם: סרטים שהם יריקה על עצמנו וכיבוס פומבי של הכביסה המלוכלכת. סרטים בנושא שכנות. לא תומכים בקומדיות, לא בסרטים על החברה הישראלית". הוא מוסיף כי "אני לא שולל לעשות סרטי מלחמות. זה ראוי. תלוי מה עושים שם".

galya said...

Can you translate this passage to English, please? Haaretz English edition left it out


"היוצרים בינוניים ומטה": דובר קוסאשווילי לא חוגג עם הקולנוע הישראלייום רביעי 11 בנובמבר 2009 08:32 מאת: עידו רוזן, עכבר העיר אונליין



. ההתחנחנות של היוצרים הישראלים לפסטיבלים רק לוקחת אותנו אחורה".

. שישימו יד על הלב ויודו בזה שהסרטים בינוניים. בינתיים כבר אפשר לראות בסרטים את החיילים הישראלים אונסים פלשתינאיות. הרפש גואה, הביוב צף".

כשהוא נשאל מה אפשר לעשות כדי למנוע את המפלה הצפויה, אומר קוסאשווילי כי "הבעיה היא שהיוצרים בינוניים. איך עושים יוצרים לא בינוניים? רק אלוהים יודע. אין שיטה. אבל יש גם בעיה בכך שהקרנות תומכות בסרטים שיש להם יותר אפיל בעולם: סרטים שהם יריקה על עצמנו וכיבוס פומבי של הכביסה המלוכלכת. סרטים בנושא שכנות. לא תומכים בקומדיות, לא בסרטים על החברה הישראלית". הוא מוסיף כי "אני לא שולל לעשות סרטי מלחמות. זה ראוי. תלוי מה עושים שם".

Lurker said...

tafka pp: ...the film world is always going to find introspective cinematic examination of our conflict/identity more interesting than his Late Wedding, with the "longest ever s*x scene to be featured in a movie".

I have admittedly not seen Koshashvili's Hatuna Meuheret. However, I see that Roger Ebert and the commenters on IMDB seem to very much disagree with you about that scene...

Lurker said...

Commenter Abbi: A good director has a vision and makes a movie based on that vision, whether or not it makes other look good or bad or whatever.

I agree. But let's consider the fact that the three most heavily promoted Israeli films in as many years have all been heavy-handed, guilt-ridden self-flagellation jobs set during the first Lebanon war, all three casting the IDF in an extremely negative light [Beaufort (2007), Waltz with Bashir (2008), and Lebanon (2009)].

Clearly, there's another factor at play here beyond just the respective directors' personal "visions".

Commenter Abbi said...

Lurker, it's the money issue that Morey brought up. Yes, unfortunately most western producers are willing to chip in for self flagellating films because unfortunately , most that's what most western audiences want to watch.

BTW, I don't think those films were that much more heavily promoted in Israel than others. I don't think we were blitzed with Bashir promotion the way chu'l was.

Yes, the world hates us, this isn't news. If this bothers some directors, they should go back to making those other great Israeli movies that they made in the late 90's, early 00's

Anonymous said...

Can anyone provide a list or a link re. good Israeli films? I'm planning to come to Israel in June (possible aliyah down the road) b"H and have been watching Israeli films on Netflix, to work on my Ivrit--by and large they are horrible, degenerate garbage. (This raises a larger issue, about the impact of the domestic film industry on Israeli culture / identity / etc., but that's for a later date.)

Thanks!
Yehuda
jda@indiana.edu

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