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Analysing the state of Israel can be a big deal. The country lives in a problematic state,  torn between the ancient modernisation and preservation of the ethno religious heritage, in which poor balances and conflicts beyond imagination, coexist: in order to better understand a situation that it is not traceable to a program or an algorithm, we should split its components individually in few maps (drawn on tissue paper) and put one layer above the other. Once we are done, the big picture will come to life. In this context, the review “New Israeli Cinema, at the Spazio Oberdan in Milan, offers to the audience the possibility to decode the Israels and Jewish culture through its contemporary movies.   

The Italian Fondazione Cinetecas itinerary affects different areas, from the Ben Gurion, Epilogue document, by Yariv Moter, which is an interview to the father of the state of Israel, Ben Gurion, who revisits the past events since its kibbutz in Sde Boker, up to  Dont Forget Me by Meran Nehari, that recalls the story of two young upset fellas living in Tel Aviv,  where the metropolitan chaos becomes both a shelter and a mirror of their insanity. The itinerary also let the audience travel by sea, till the great land of Iom Romi by Valerio Ciriaci, which tells the daily life of the Jewish community in Rome and the old relationship between the eternal city and Jerusalem, going up to Tuscany, along with Shalom Italia of Tamar Tal, that follows three old brothers on the hunt for the refuge that will save them from the deportations during War World II.

The role of the faith today is the recurring thought that emerges from this review, especially when it turns into extremism. Like in The Womens Balcony by Emil Ben-Shimon, where religion and tradition both meet and collide.The lives in the community of Etty (Evelin Hagoel) and Tzion (Yigal Naor) started to fall apart when the matroneum of the temple falls down; a charming young and ultra-orthodox rabbi, will save the day and will lead the community into a rigid lifestyle, yet causing more conflicts.

The film is focused on the role of women in the Modern Orthodox Judaism, without becoming too tragic, and David is portrayed as a suitable rival with a good sense of humor. The sarcastic verve doesn’t stop here; in Holy Air by Shady Srour, the theme of the religious tourism is faced and seen as a loss of the religion itself:what a better way to fortify the plot spirits than by a fantastic story of a character that tries to sell the “saint” air of Nazareth?  

Therefore, a common feature can be found in the “new” Israel films: its possible sharing religious devotion but the contrast between the communities is unbearable. In this way, the documentaries look sharper and more innovative. For example Outsider, a short movie from Travellers – 5 short movies, that explores the life of a young charedì who quit the ultra-orthodox community to look into the modern society, and How to ride an elevator on Shabbat, that explores the life of Nadav, a gay and devoted boy who became the leader of the LGBT community. 

The conflicts between the Jewish-Israeli and the Jewish-Ethiopian communities are portrayed in Habesha, but it’s unpublished in our country: in a society where the racism has turned into an institution, the riot recalls how sharing a religion is not enough and how often is so much easier to live it  belonging to an ethnicity instead of another.

The highlight of the review is Foxtrot. The director Samuel Maoz faces a heavy and contentious theme for Israel: the militarisation of the State. The couple Daphna (Sarah Adler) and Michael (Lior Ashkenazi) find out that their son Jonathan (Yonaton Shiray) has passed away. This causes the deepest shock to the family, that is desperate and in the grip of confusion. With his skills, Maoz could make the human pain emerge through his tale and cinematography technique, and it’s no coincidence that the second act goes in a completely different direction.

Thanks to an editing technique, the story jumps until it gets to a remote checkpoint of Israel, crossed by camels only and where the young soldiers fight their daily boredom: the silent footage is marked by the stories and questions of these guys about the meaning of all of this. The abstract realism and surrealism, two sides of the same coin. Foxtrot is the portrait of the irrational tragedy, and speaks a universal language to teach that our existence can be seen as that dance: despite every effort, you always go back to the start.

Daniela Addea – Translated by Beatrice Birolo