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The cinema industry in Palestine is quite young as compared to the cinema industry in the Arab world. This is evidenced by the fact that most Palestinian movies are made with Israeli and European support. These movies may at times have a biased theme due to the origin of the support used in making of the given movie. Palestinian movies have developed through various stages. These include;
a) The first period between 1935-48
The first period highlights the beginning of the Palestinian cinema industry. The first Palestinian film made in the Palestinian cinema industry was a documentary on the visit of King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia in 1935 to Palestine. The movie basically showed the kings visit to various locations in the Palestinian nation. This movie compiled by Ibrahim Hassan Sirhan, was not highly publicized and resulted to a low profile movie. This movie was followed by several other movies which were unfortunately lost when Jaffa was bombarded. Some movies lost include “A storm at Home”.
b) The second period: The era of silence between 1948 to 1967
The Naqba (the massive migration of Palestinians) in 1948 was devastating to the Palestinian society. This included all industries and the nascent film industry was not spared. Cinematic activities required infrastructure, finance and well trained crew crews almost ceased operation for period not less than two decades. Palestinians participated in film-production in the neighboring countries. For example Sirhan was involved in the production of the Jordanian film, The Struggle in Jarash,(1957). During this period Palestinian cinemas were affected by lack of necessary infrastructure and negative attitude to what was viewed as a western idea clipping into Palestine.
c) The 3rd period of cinema in exile, 1968-82
After 1967, the Palestinian cinema was found under the patronage of the PLO and sourcing their funds from Fatah and other many Palestinian organizations. This film festival held in 1973 in Baghdad was aimed at promoting the Palestinian cinema industry. Various organizations created archives for the newly produced Palestinian films with the largest archive being run by PLO's Film Foundation. In 1982, Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was forced out of Beirut resulting to loss of the archive under unclear circumstances.
d) The fourth period: 1980 to the present
In the 1996 drama, the Chronicle of a Disappearance received international recognition and thus becoming the first Palestinian movie to receiving national release in the United States. A performing film for its kind, the movie won the "New Director's Prize" during the Seattle International Film Festival and the "Luigi De Laurent is Award". In 2008 international efforts were launched to reopen Cinema Jenin, a cinema company located in Jenin Refugee Camp. In 2010, the governing authority of the Gaza Strip Hamas, announced the completion of the film. The Great Liberation which depicts destruction of Israel by Palestinians.
Currently, the cinema industry especially in the Gaza street faces major regulations from the governing authority with the requirement that the cinema produces items that only follow or support Hamas edicts.
The cinema industry in Israel
Israel being a young country the cinema industry is also young. The affiliation between Israeli cinema and its organization has been a perturbed one. Nevertheless, the cinema industry’s history in Israel mirrors the history of the Israel nation.
The first-ever motion cinema was filmed in Ottoman Palestine. The movie popularly known as Train Station in Jerusalem (1896) has alien and panoramic views which are attention-grabbing today as they were when first produced for the European audience.
Cinema productions made before and during the first the years of Israeli statehood, tried to stress Zionist ideals. This was aimed at encouraging the Jews to fight for survival amid heightened animosity from the Arab states.
Most prominent Israeli cinemas manifest the theme of nationality. For example, the cinema by the name Hill 24 Doesn't Answer shows that the Israeli fighters were willing to pay with their lives for their country. In the 1990s, the Israeli cinema matured in many ways. The expanded population and improved economy, together with a less defensive perspective of the Israeli society contributed to an explosion in quantity and quality of films.
Finally, most Palestinian and Israeli films correspond to societies and parties in conflict. For example, the movie the Divine Intervention and Waltz with Bashir. Through the study of style in portions of the movies and the documentaries bring out various social-political themes.
Social-political themes in Palestinian and Israeli cinemas
This section represents the various relevant theories cited in these cinemas. It also portends the critical analysis of the various films. An example of a book that shows this is Dreams of a Nation. It is a collection of essays and interviews in which filmmakers, scholars and, critics reflect on its production and impact. It is the most comprehensive book on Palestinian cinema in any language.
A dialogue of the public aspects of theater requires various notional and procedural assumptions with the most important referring to the stage as in lieu of a social experience. It is acknowledged that as much as theater does not reflect the social reality, it at times fashions it to its own particular needs thus enables the over-the-top disclosure hidden conflicts and clear disagreements. A vital aspect of the theater’s advance towards “public thought” is the one of “the public nature of drama”.
An additional factor addressing the problem or opinionated argument is presented before audience whose numbers can reach tens of thousands. Therefore, plays taking a position on a conflict central to the Israeli society may have powerful ideological effects. From the 1980’s particularly during the Lebanon war the Hebrew theater started to feature biting revelations of hostilities and contradictions, presenting the conflicts among Israel and Palestine as insoluble. This created way for issue of Israeli-Palestinian conflict in cinemas. Majority of plays reflect the wish of their developers who at times take a stands attempting to influence the situation.
The cinema industry in Palestine and Israel portrays various social-political themes is symbolic and at times vividly to express various ideas to the society. These social-political themes include;
a) Patriotism and nationalism
Many cinemas in Palestine and Israel portray the theory of patriotism and nationalism .This is aimed at rallying support towards the respective countries. For example in the Israeli movie “Hill 24 does not answer (1955)”, the cinema portrays patriotism in a significant way.
In this movie the soldiers involved show extreme courage and dedication to fight for Israel. Although the soldiers die their life’s are not lost in vain since Israel is granted ownership of the particular hill. The release of the movie during the Israeli-Egyptian skirmishes gives the Israeli soldiers extremist confidence. This move tries to imply that despite dying during the war their lives would not be a loss but would be beneficial to the future Israeli generation.
In Palestine the theme of patriotism and nationalism is greatly depicted in the cinema industry. For example, in the Palestinian cinema “The Great Liberation” Palestine seek to push the social-political theme of nationalism. Through this movie, the movie developer seeks to unite Palestinian soldiers against a common enemy Israel. This movie seeks to demystify the idea that Israel is a non-confront able state giving the fighters more hope of victory.
b) Politics of space
In the cinema private the social political theme of politics of space has been portrayed through the occupation of a peaceful Palestinians home by Israeli forces. The film "Private" depicts the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a frightening event shown by a midnight raid on the house of an educated and peace loving Palestinian family by Israeli soldiers who turn the home into their territory. The Israeli forces enforce strict rules on the family members confining them into a few rooms of their homes.
The "Private" becomes a politically loaded allegory which depicts the Israeli invasion and consequent conversion of Palestinian land into their territory. This allegory shows the various problems faced by peace loving Palestinians in the hands of the invading Israeli army. The Israeli army demolishes various structures viewed as hindrances on their mission ,for example the tearing down of a green house to provide space for better vision for the military depicts demolitions of Palestinian houses in Palestinian regions such as west bank.
The cinema “the Private “ goes ahead to depict the creation of the Israeli nation which led to annexation of some land from the Arab states such as Palestine .This was highly opposed and resulted to the creation of hatred between the Arab nations and the Jewish nation. This opened a new space for international conflict between Israel and Arab states .For example politics of space led to the war between Israel and Egypt and other Palestinian nations after Israeli annexation of Palestinian territory.
c) Politics of identity
The social-political theme of politics of identity is shown in various films among them “the Private”. In this film the theme of politics of identity is clearly shown in two ways.
First, the politics of identity is shown by Israeli invasion of the Palestinian home. This shows the need by Israel to affirm its existence in the region. This act in the film depicts Israelis annexation of Palestinian territory to create more land for Jewish settlements at the expense of peace loving Palestinian people. This act is one trying to show Israeli might thus create the identity of a powerful nation towards the Palestinian and other Arab states.
Secondly, the social-political theme of identity is shown by the actions the eldest child in the Palestinian home occupied by the Israeli army in the film “the private” is an act trying to create an image of an un-oppress able Palestinian community. The action of the youngest son rebelling against the Israeli military depicts the weak and regular rebellions by extremist Palestinians trying to assert their identity. The rebellions are usually manifested through suicide bombings in Israeli occupied regions. In the film the results of the child’s rebellion puts the family at risk of execution depicts the consequences facing Palestinians after such rebellions in areas like Gaza.
Memory and Trauma Cinema of Displacement
The Palestinian cinema history could be outlined out in four periods as cited above. In the third period, which was after the Nambe, we see documentary films being used to bring about a unified Palestinian identity. These films played major roles in strengthening the tale of displacement that transcended from the trauma caused by the Nambein 1948. Films produced in this time featured opposition against the Israeli state. The aim of this was to educate Palestinians and endanger a sense of unity, pride and nationalism among this varied population.
These films, employed particular freedom struggles and localized events whose depiction implied setting a collective Palestinian fate. Though these films do not necessarily reconstruct a specific history of that loss, they postulate the trauma of displacement. It is by doing this that these films create a historical memory that is a common historical memory, obtained from a collective trauma. This made it easier for Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to keep up a liberation movement.
Description of the Holocaust & Naqba, 1948
Nambe means “catastrophe” in Arabic. To the Palestinians, Nambe refers to the takeover of their homeland and the destruction of their society. This was caused by the Arab-Israeli conflict in1948 and the Civil War that came before it. These conflicts emanated from disagreement between Israelis and Arabs. This event is commemorated by Palestinians on May 15. This day is usually known as Nambe Day.
There are several reasons as to why the Arab spread. These include the collapse in Palestinian leadership, an unwillingness to live under Jewish control, Jewish military advances and voluntary self-removal of the wealthier classes. Another significant reason that caused many Arabs to leave out of panic is the fears of massacre after Deir Yassin. These reasons could be summarized into two; the flight of the Palestinians was as a result of the Zionist ideology and later on Israeli policy. The Zionist had an agenda of grabbing as much land as possible. They created on it a Jewish state. The aim was to have a few Palestinians as possible within the future Jewish state.
The first Israeli government passed strings of laws deterring the Palestinian Arabs from claiming their property or coming back to their homes. This rendered them and their descendants refugees. The other reason why the Palestinians were expelled was because of Haganah militia’s Plan Delet. As an example Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, said “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.” He continued that, "We must do everything to ensure them [the Palestinians] never return." He predicted, "The old will die and the young will forget."
Israel later proposed the return of 100,000 of the refugees as a gesture of goodwill. This was during the Lausanne conference that occurred in the 1949. These refugees were not necessarily to return to their homes. The above figure had in it factored 25,000 Palestinian Arabs that had returned secretly and the reunion cases that added up to 10,000 families. Though the Israelis accepted the above proposal they had a condition that they would retain the territory it had taken. The Arab states were to absorb the rest of the refugees, a proposal they utterly rejected on both political and moral grounds. Whether Israel will give the pedestrians their claimed right to return to their homes or be compensated, are key issues that form the basis of the Israel-Palestinen conflict.
Amidst all these, there were Palestinians who remained as citizens in what became Israel. It was until 1966 that the Israeli military rule let them free. To date, nearly 20 percent of Israel’s population are the Palestinian. They have various rights for example the right to run for office and vote. “.
Cinemas on the Holocaust and Naqba, 1948
There are several films that depict the holocaust in Israel. Holocaust films appeared in the Israeli cinema in just after World War II and again after 1978. An example is the Wooden Gun (Ilan Moshenson, 1978). There are however, other Holocaust related cinema consists of a small number of feature films such asTel Aviv-Berlin (Tzipi Trope, 1986) ,Judah (Yaacov Ben Dov,1917) and New Land (Orna Ben-Dor Niv, 1994), and out of the Ashes among others.
Most of these films depict the painful nostalgia that is experienced by the Arab refugees. They depict the lives of the millions of Palestinian refugees dispersed around the world. Nonetheless, it portrays the fact that the refugee’sinternationally-recognized rights are still not accepted especially in Israel. They are not permitted to return yet a Jew from anywhere in the world can settle in Israel.
At the start of the twenty-first century, Middle Eastern politics have penetrated the global imagination and claimed media attention as never before. But while in the films and narratives of others the region's inhabitants are often eroticized or demonized in oriental’s fashion as terrorists or religious fundamentalists, Middle Eastern cinemas engage with their politics rather differently, as these three books testify, all of them firmly situating the region's cinemas on the map of ‘world cinema’. Thus they offer not only important reflections on what is politically at stake in cinematic representation but also a provocative dialogue with international affairs that is rare in film scholarship.