Hollywood may still reign supreme in the film and TV arena, but Israeli filmmakers are contending more than ever for American viewers, as they distribute their work to audiences via streaming services.
The Bureau of Jewish Education (BJE) will launch its 2019 Passages series with a lecture by film historian and educator Eric Goldman on Jan. 13 at the Ina Levine Jewish Community Campus. His topic will be “Israel’s story through cinema, from the movie ‘Exodus’ to the Netflix miniseries ‘Fauda.’ ”
“I use film as a text for understanding changing cultures and evolving societies,” said Goldman, the founder and president of Ergo Media Inc., a film distribution company specializing in Jewish cinema. “I’ve been looking at mainstream Israeli films over the course of Israel’s 70 years, and by analyzing how they reflect over a changing Israel.”
A former curator of film for the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, Goldman has written extensively on American Jews in cinema, as well as Israeli and Yiddish film. He is currently working on a new book about Israeli cinema.
For his upcoming lecture, Goldman plans to review the history of Israeli cinema, which he says didn’t really begin until a decade after the founding of the country. However, his main focus will be on the contemporary Israeli film industry and its films are being distributed in America.
“In the ’50s, they didn’t have a film school. There wasn’t even a film laboratory in Israel back then,” Goldman said. “Right now, we’re seeing a lot of different films and TV series that are finding their way onto Netflix for Americans to watch.”
Today there are 13 Israeli film schools that Goldman said are producing talented writers and directors who will continue to grow the nation’s thriving film industry.
BJE Director of Adult Learning and the Jewish Community Library Elaine Hirsch is excited to see Goldman return to the Valley for the lecture series and for attendees to learn more about Israeli film culture.
“He’s spoken before about how Jews have been portrayed in the media from Eddie Cantor to Woody Allen,” Hirsch said. “I don’t think everyone is aware of how popular the Israeli film industry is becoming in the United States.”
Hirsch, who organizes the annual series, said the upcoming Passages will showcase some fascinating speakers who will lecture on a variety of topics such as arts, politics and religion.
Upcoming lectures will feature The Jerusalem Post’s White House correspondent Michael Wilner discussing the role of the media in the Arab-Israeli conflict, a look at the creation of “Fiddler on the Roof” and the Violins of Hope event.
The BJE’s Passages lecture series has presented speakers to the Valley for more than 40 years. Hirsch said Passages is BJE’s strongest source of donations.
“Passages enables us to be the pluralistic learning environment that we are for Jews of all persuasions,” she said. JN