This week the acclaimed Israeli movie Footnote is competing for best foreign movie in the Oscars (It will also have a March 9th limited U.S release). The 2011 TV series Homeland, which is a remake of the Israeli TV series Prisoners of War, was the best TV series of the past year and won numerous Golden Globes. In Treatment, the American remake of the Israeli TV series In Therapy won awards both at the Emmy’s and the Golden Globes during its three year run. To celebrate the rise and rise of Israeli cinema and TV, we give you a review of its best contemporary titles sorted by themes and moods:
Things Behind the Sun – A story about a family in which each one of its members is facing an important crossroad in their life. It’s about the need for love and about the comfort we can get from our family in times of need.
Lebanon – A Golden Lion winner at the Venice Film Festival, it shows the suffering and the horror that all sides who participate in a war have to endure. Almost all the movie is shown from the insides of an Israeli tank.
Holy Guests – A devout Hasidic Jew is forced to come to terms with his criminal past when two old friends pay him a visit. It’s a heartwarming, and at times, comic movie about faith and humanism.
Jerusalem Brew - Deals with the life of a traditional Jewish family living in Jerusalem. While one son rebels against the father and becomes secular, the other takes the opposing side and becomes an ultra-orthodox Jew.
Bonjour Monsieur Shlomi – Shlomi is a young man who spends so much time caring for his dysfunctional family that he is unable to look after himself. But when he simultaneously falls in love and is declared a genius by the school principal, he must find a delicate balance between serving his own best interests without abandoning his needy family.
Colombian Love – A young couple in love decides to get married. When the preparations for the wedding begin, everything starts to spiral out of control.
Intimate Grammar – Winner in the Tokyo international film festival, this heartbreaking movie that takes place during the 1960s, focuses on an 11 year old kid who hasn’t grown a single inch during the last 3 years. He just needs some time and patience, but his dysfunctional family and especially his overbearing mother aren’t really helping.
The Flood – A poignant film that got a special mention at the Berlin Film Festival. It tells the story of Yoni, a 13 year old boy who’s having a tough time at school. Things only get tougher when his autistic brother returns home after being hidden away for years in a hostel that is now shut down.
Asfur – This TV series that revolves around 4 buddies who keep getting themselves in and out of trouble, received a cult following in Israel. A U.S production company has already bought the rights for an American version. Imagine early-day Guy Ritchie deciding to make an Israeli TV series and combine it with some soap opera elements.
The Arbitrator – Another cult TV series, The Arbitrator (a person which criminals go to in order to sort their differences) is something like a parody version of many great crime films and TV shows, combined. The characters are extremely exaggerated and the plot twists are many – and that’s exactly what makes it so fun to watch.
Ajami – Jaffa’s Ajami neighborhood is a melting pot of cultures and conflicting views among Jews, Muslims and Christians. This rough and captivating movie that was nominated for an Oscar and won an award at the Cannes Film Festival captures the tensions of the neighborhood and of the entire Israeli society.
The Band’s Visit – A winner of the Cannes Film Festival, it’s a subtle and touching movie about a music band comprised of members of the Egyptian police force who arrive at the wrong town in Israel and have to rely on the kindness of the local Cafe owner, Dina.
In Therapy – The show follows a psychologist during his weekly meetings with his patients, including his appointment with his own therapist. It got a very successful U.S remake – HBO’s In Treatment with Gabriel Byrne as the psychologist.
Footnote – Another Cannes winner, Footnote is a brilliant and stylized film that deals with the escalating tension between a father and his son, both eccentric professors who desire recognition for their work (but only one can get the ultimate recognition – the Israeli prize).
Mesudarim – Some call it the Israeli version of Entourage (and ironically Mark Wahlberg was interested in buying the format and giving it a U.S remake called Loaded), Mesudarim means settled for life. It follows 4 friends who sell their gaming startup company to an American corporation for 217 million dollars, and deals with how the four very different, childhood friends deal with their new found wealth.
A Matter of Size – Made in the spirit of The Full Monty, and at least as good. It’s a light (despite the character’s weight), funny, moving, sentimental against the odds tale - a great formula that makes you leave the cinema with a big smile on your face. An American version helmed by Jon Turteltaub is in the making.
The Debt – Three Mossad agents captured a Nazi war criminal, but he managed to escape. They cover it up and are regarded as heroes in Israel. 35 years later a local paper publishes an article that the criminal is alive, willing to admit his crimes. The aging agents have a chance to complete the job and save their reputation. An American remake with Helen Mirren came out last year and was a mild success.
Metallic Blues – In this emotional and very funny dramedy, a pair of used-car dealers drive a classic limo from Israel to Germany, putting their friendship onto a test as well as their feelings about the European country.
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