One failed war, three successful films

Why do Israeli films about the Lebanon War win so many major awards?

Lebanon24888 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
When the Israeli feature film Lebanon won the top award at the prestigious Venice Film Festival on Saturday, it became the third movie in three years about Israeli soldiers fighting in the First Lebanon War, to have captured international honors. Several veterans of that 18-year war are now important players in Israel's nascent film industry. They have begun to portray their experiences as young soldiers through film, and their stories are resonating with audiences around the world, film experts said on Sunday. "These are very personal stories that are told from the gut," said David Zipkin, head of finance and production at The Israel Film Fund. "These are stories that are told by people who have experienced this war. When you tell a story that has elements of truth, it resonates through audiences." Beaufort, produced in 2007, depicted the IDF retreat from the Beaufort Castle in southern Lebanon. The film won the Silver Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival and was nominated for several other awards. Animated documentary Waltz with Bashir, released in 2008, won a Golden Globe, was nominated for an Academy Award and won more than two dozen other awards at film festivals around the world. Lebanon premiered at the Jerusalem Film Festival earlier this summer and follows several battles through the perspectives of four soldiers in a tank crew. The film won the Golden Lion Award, the top honor at the Venice Film Festival, on Saturday. Simultaneous with the rise of Israel's film industry - which some film critics say has been experiencing a "golden age" with the major international success of movies like Jellyfish, The Band's Visit and My Father, My Lord - veterans of the First Lebanon War are opening up and are more willing to tell their stories, according to experts. "I think the reason that there are suddenly so many movies about this war is that people who fought in it in their late teens and early 20s are now in their 50s," said Jerusalem Post film critic Hannah Brown. "They are ready to sit down and talk about these experiences, which were formative. They are just now at the stage of their lives where they can deal with it." Renen Schorr, the founder and director of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, said that often these kinds of war films were not even popular in the already violence-saturated Israeli market, but instead served as a means of expression for their creators. "The Israeli public are not necessarily for war movies," said Schorr. "These films are tough for the audience, and especially for some women. But [the soldiers] from that war are now veterans who are maturing and are ready to open the old wounds." But despite some distaste for war films within the country, moviegoers can probably expect more stories from the First Lebanon War to come to the silver screen in the near future. "I wouldn't be surprised if you see many more," said Brown. "I would not be surprised if there are veterans right now who are working on novels and screenplays about that most formative experience of their lives."