From Sept ’06 Spotlight: Sometimes context changes everything. When we’ve lived through a summer like the summer of 2006, it doesn’t matter when the films in the “Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema” (CFIC) were conceived, created, or chosen for us; it only matters that they’re coming to us now. And so, what was once a fairly predictable “coming of age” drama like Summer Story now carries added poignancy because it’s set in 1982 during Israel’s first invasion of Lebanon. And what could earlier be described as a comedy about a “dysfunctional family” now alters entirely when we realize that Joy’s father-figure looks just like Ariel Sharon (still suspended in a coma as I write).
Some might think going to the movies is a frivolous activity in such trying times, but not Barukh Binah, Israel’s Consul General to the Midwest: “Throughout our history, a thriving cultural scene has been a mainstay of Israeli society. As a nation we take great pride in our creative achievements. Today, even while facing aggression from our neighbors, theaters remain filled and we continue celebrating and supporting our artistic community.” If the Israelis can remain so resolute under bombardment, shouldn’t we?
According to CFIC coordinator Donna Yates, the CFIC’s “mission is to celebrate the growing strength of Israel’s film industry, while showcasing the country’s multifaceted identity. Through the medium of film, audiences connect with Israeli culture and society in a non-political, artistic way, thereby increasing understanding of and tolerance toward Israel and its people.” This cross-cultural exchange is especially critical now, when Israel’s image has taken a beating in the world press. Audience members, both Jewish and non-Jewish, will see lives very similar to their own; there are very few monsters or people with horns on display although most of the characters have recognizable flaws just like yours and mine.”
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