Before Shalom Bollywood, Watch These 6 Award-Winning Israeli Films

Israel has a heritage of powerful movies that make their mark in international film festivals.

3 min read
Stills from <i>Foxtrot</i>, <i>Waltz With Bashir</i> and <i>Sand&nbsp; Storm</i>.&nbsp;

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara would be visiting India for four days later this month, and part of their busy schedule is an event ‘Shalom Bollywood’, where Netanyahu would meet the Hindi film industry’s leading personalities. There, he is expected to pitch Israel as an ideal destination for Bollywood shoots. It’s believed to be part of Israel’s fight against the “cultural boycott” it’s facing in the global entertainment business.

As Israel welcomes Bollywood with open arms, it’s apt to return the favour and explore Israeli cinema. These award-winning films coming out of the country in recent years would be a good place to begin:

1. Foxtrot (2017)

Foxtrot revolves around a Tel Aviv couple coping with the death of their son, Jonathan Feldman, who has been killed in the line of duty while stationed at a far-flung military outpost. Directed by Samuel Maoz and starring Lior Ashkenazi and Sarah Adler, the film has been described as “bruisingly powerful” in its depiction of war and its aftermath.

Foxtrot won the Grand Jury Prize Silver Lion at the 74th Venice International Film Festival. It was also screened in the Special Presentations section at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, where it won the Ophir Award for Best Film. It’s contending for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Film this year.

2. Sand Storm (2016)

Traditions, rebellion against them and the fight for one’s identity among Israel’s Bedouin women form the crux of Sand Storm. Shown in the Panorama section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, the film won Grand Jury Prize in the World Cinema Dramatic section at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. It won the Best Film Award at the Ophir Awards as well.

3. Zero Motivation (2014)

A smash hit in Israel and winner of the Best Narrative Feature Award at the Tribeca Film Festival, Zero Motivation is a unique satirical, funny and sometimes dark portrait of daily life for a unit of young, female soldiers in a remote Israeli desert outpost.

4. The Kindergarten Teacher (2014)

Winner of the $20,000 prize for new talent at the Taipei Film Festival and selected for a special screening at the Cannes Critics’ Week, The Kindergarten Teacher is a powerful psychological drama verging on the thriller. Exploring child prodigy and obsession, it revolves around a teacher who stumbles upon a five-year-old literary genius. The film is incidentally, being remade in Hollywood with Maggie Gyllenhall in the lead.

5. Waltz with Bashir (2008)

In this animated war documentary, director Ari Folman meets and interviews old friends and comrades around the world to resuscitate his memories - and horrors - of the 1982 Lebanon War. Banned in Lebanon, Waltz with Bashir won a Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, an NSFC Award for Best Film, a César Award for Best Foreign Film and an IDA Award for Feature Documentary.

It was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, a BAFTA Award for Best Film Not in the English Language and an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature. Phew!

6. Jellyfish (2007)

Directed by celebrated Israeli author Etgar Keret, Jellyfish is a dark comedy, revolving around three functionally depressed women in Tel Aviv - a waitress, a new bride, and a home-care worker. A portrayal of Israeli secular life, the unique film won the 2007 Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Official Selection at the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival, and the Official Selection at the 2008 Telluride Film Festival.

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