Friday night at the movies

Israeli cinema and American comedy hit the small screen with the likes of Joseph Cedar’s 'Beaufort' and documentary series 'Inside Comedy.'

Beaufort (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
While the Israeli television networks have co-produced dozens of recent Israeli films, they don’t show locally made movies nearly as much as you might expect. So it’s very welcome that Channel 1 (and Channel 1 HD, Channel 511) has started showing Israeli movies once a week. Tonight at 9:30 p.m., you can see Joseph Cedar’s Beaufort, the Oscar-nominated adaptation of Ron Leshem’s novel about Israeli troops leaving Lebanon in 2000. The movie, which was made in 2007, is moving, suspenseful and masterful as it examines the conflicts and dangers the young soldiers face. It stars Oshri Cohen and Itay Turgeman, who are currently appearing in the television series New York, as well as Itay Turan, who played the lead in an Israeli production of Hamlet.
One cautionary note about watching Beaufort on television: Much of it is, literally, very dark, as the soldiers live in a network of concrete bunkers while they wait for the time when they can return to Israel. I have seen the film in the theater and on DVD, and these dimly lit scenes don’t play well on the small screen. So if you plan to watch the film on television, see it on as big a screen as you can, and turn off the lights in the room.
Upcoming films in the Friday night series include Eran Riklis’s Zohar, a biopic about self-destructive singer Zohar Argov, and Cedar’s first film, Time of Favor (Ha’hesder).
While it’s certainly nice to see Israeli movies replacing the so-so American television series that sometimes air, I’d like to make a plea for the Israel Broadcasting Authority to consider religiously observant audiences the next time it makes a programming decision. I know that many factors go into scheduling, but movies have become such a key part of the national culture, that it’s a shame that the observant public won’t be able to watch these films. It’s especially ironic that two of the movies in the series, Beaufort and Time of Favor, are by one of Israel’s only observant directors, Joseph Cedar, and that he won’t be able to watch these films when they are broadcast on Friday night. Time of Favor is about a hesder yeshiva, but no one from the community the film is about will watch it. Maybe some saw it when it was first released, but that was 13 years ago. Many young people will certainly not have seen it, and it’s a controversial film that raises interesting questions about extremism in the National Religious community.
YES Docu has an enormous number of documentaries on important subjects, but it’s not a channel you’d look to for laughs.
That is changing with the documentary series Inside Comedy (the Israeli title is Pogesh et Ha’komikaim, or “meet the comics:), which features interviews with some of the best loved comedians of all time. It airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 11 p.m. on YES Docu and is also available on YES VOD.
David Steinberg, a very funny stand-up comic who never became the household name that some of his peers did, is the interviewer, and the show features some amazing guests.
Among them are famous funny people of today, including Chris Rock, Jane Lynch, Steve Carrell and Sarah Silverman. They’re also featuring slightly more seasoned performers, such as Billy Crystal and Martin Short.
But the show many of us will enjoy the most is the one in which Steinberg interviews Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner. You may know them as the director of Blazing Saddles and the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show, respectively, but once upon a time they did a comedy routine at their lucky friends’ parties, where Brooks would portray a character called The 2,000-Year-Old Man and Reiner would interview him. That routine eventually became a series of comedy albums, and it will be wonderful to see them together again.