Five Israeli Filmmakers You Should Know

5. Talya Lavie
Talya Lavie is the youngest and the least experienced filmmaker on this list, but that doesn’t mean she is the least interesting. Her debut feature, “Zero Motivation,” was released four years ago and has already become a cult film: It won six Ophir Awards (the Israeli Oscars) and was one of the most successful Israeli films in recent decades. The film, a hilarious black comedy depicting the life of female Israeli Defense Forces soldiers at a remote military base, revolutionized the portrayal of Israeli women on screen. Lavie herself was hailed as the pioneer of a new female wave. If you are not a fan of subtitled films, you can hold off on taking a Hebrew class: American comic actresses Amy Poehler and Natasha Lyonne are reportedly adapting the movie into an American TV series.

4. Samuel Maoz
Samuel Maoz almost became the first Israeli director to win an Academy Award—his recent sensational film, “Foxtrot,” was shortlisted, but did not ultimately receive a nomination. Even without the golden statue, Maoz can be proud of himself: He will go down in history as the creator of one of the most controversial movies in Israel. The film, described by the director as “a Greek tragedy in three sequences,” tells the story of Michael and Dafna, a Tel Aviv couple who learn that their son, Jonathan, died while serving as an IDF soldier. If that sounds intriguing, you might also want to check out Maoz’s first feature film, “Lebanon.” It is based on the director’s experience as a soldier during the 1982 Lebanon war and is mostly shot from inside a tank.

3. Joseph Cedar
In a way, Joseph Cedar accomplished the dream that was just out of reach for Samuel Maoz. Cedar’s 2007 “Beaufort,” depicting the story of the IDF withdrawal from southern Lebanon, was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The movie lost to the Austrian-German drama “The Counterfeiters,” but that wasn’t the end of Cedar’s romance with Hollywood. Two years ago he released his most recent film, “Norman,” starring Richard Gere and Israeli actor Lior Ashkenazi. But Cedar’s true magnum opus is actually his 2011“Footnote,” which was nominated for an Oscar as well. It follows the complex relationship between a father and son who teach at the same department of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

2. Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz
If you’ve read this far, you may have noticed that the military service and the IDF are recurring themes in Israeli movies. While this impression is often corroborated in the Israeli film canon, that is not always the case. The sister-and-brother team of Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz is known for expanding the boundaries of Israeli cinema. The two created films that innovatively dealt with yet unexplored themes like Mizrachi Jewish families (Jews descended from the Middle East) and the degradation of women in Israeli religious courts. Their heart-breaking trilogy—“To Take a Wife,” “Shiva,” and “Gett”—is a must-see for those interested in contemporary Israel. Ronit Elkabetz died in 2016 at 51, but her unparalleled, prolific career as an actress and filmmaker left a mark on Israeli culture that many more artists would find hard to match.

1. Ari Folman
Probably the most well known director on the list, Ari Folman is one of the most fascinating and internationally acclaimed figures in Israeli cinema. His 2008 documentary “Waltz with Bashir” premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and went on to win and be nominated for basically every important international award. It was the first animated film to have received a nomination for the Oscars and the Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film and a César Award for Best Foreign Film (the French Oscars). His next project was “The Congress,” a captivating animated sci-fi drama starring Robin Wright, released in 2013. And his upcoming film sounds even more compelling: An animated version of Anne Frank’s diaries.



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