Israel Cinematography – Before and After 1948

By | December 22, 2021

After the Second World War, the genocide perpetrated by the Nazis was one of the central themes of Israeli cinema. Just a year before the official birth of the State of Israel, the American Jewish journalist and novelist Meyer Levin arrived in his future homeland to shoot, with Herbert Kline, Beit Avi (1947, My Father’s House), centered on the obsessive search for his own parents by a boy who survived the Buchenwald concentration camp, who skillfully mixes dramatic elements with historical reconstruction.

After the first conflict between Jews and Palestinians (which for the Israelis represented the ‘war of independence’), following the establishment of the State of Israel (May 14, 1948, a date that has since marked the nakba, ‘catastrophe’ for the Palestinian people ‘) and concluded by the armistice agreements signed between February and July 1949, the first Hebrew-language film of the post-war period was Hafugah (1950, Cessate il fuoco) by Amram Aman, a melodramatic comedy that reflects on the contradictions between life in the kibbutzim, destined for a rapid disintegration due to the exhaustion of the ideological thrust that had supported its spread, and the temptations of city life. For Israel 2018, please check ethnicityology.com.

If the contrast between the ethical and political tension of community life – which had marked the work of the ‘fathers of the fatherland’ – and the affirmation of a hedonistic, materialistic and Western bourgeoisie was destined to become over time a crucial issue for culture and for Israeli cinema, war, independence, the heroic and mythic figures of Zionism, the construction of the new nation, the holocaust and its survivors remain the dominant themes of the production between the fifties and sixties, defined as realism Zionist’. One of the most successful and representative works of the war genre, the first to fully establish itself in Israeli cinema, is a co-production between Israel and the United States Giv῾a 24 eyna ῾ona, also known as Hill 24 doesn’t answer (1955; Collina 24 does not answer), whose direction was entrusted to the Englishman Thorold Dickinson. Mixing melodrama, historical reconstruction and classic war film topoi, the work tells in flashbacks and with effective psychological investigation the stories of four soldiers of different nationalities, charged with defending a hill on the road to Jerusalem. If the theme of the volunteers who helped Israel from abroad in the so-called war of independence will give rise to various American productions, the most famous of which remains Exodus (1960) by high ground on the road to Jerusalem. If the theme of the volunteers who helped Israel from abroad in the so-called war of independence will give rise to various American productions, the most famous of which remains Exodus (1960) by high ground on the road to Jerusalem. If the theme of the volunteers who helped Israel from abroad in the so-called war of independence will give rise to various American productions, the most famous of which remains Exodus (1960) by Otto Preminger, the co-productions with the United States (but also with Great Britain and France), shot mostly in English and aimed mainly at international markets, contributed strongly to the professional development of technical and artistic executives who acquired training according to the standards of international production, decisive for the nascent Israeli film industry, given the absence of any supportive state policy, which would continue until the end of the 1970s.

If many directors, such as eg. Baruch Dienar, went to study cinema in the United States, numerous exiled filmmakers who followed the massive migratory flows of Jews from all over the world favored by the ‘law of return’ enacted by Prime Minister Ben Gurion also gave an important contribution to the development of Israeli cinema. Among these is the American Larry Frish, whose comedy Tel Aviv Taxi (1954) is best remembered for being the first feature film completely produced in his homeland, at the Geva Studios near Tel Aviv; but also Nuri Habib (born in Iraq), author of the first Israeli color film, Ha-Tiqvah (1956, Nostalgia di una patria) who reflected precisely on migratory flows, but setting the story in the 1920s, the ‘heroic’ era of Zionism.

It was in those years that, following the waves of Jewish immigrants of Arab origin from North Africa and the Middle East, the tensions between the two main components of Jewish culture – with the Sephardi of Arab origin relegated to minor roles and also socially marginalized by the Ashkenazi component, which constituted the national establishment – they began to manifest themselves widely. At the same time, the image of the Palestinians and the Arab world would have represented, even in cinema, a watershed for future developments. In Israeli films made before the 1960s, the Palestinians were mere extras and, like other Arab peoples, enemies shrouded in anonymity, as were the Native Indian tribes in American and European Western epics; or were they painted, for example.

Israel Cinematography - Before and After 1948