Israeli films: Coming soon to a home theater near you!

Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void won the Best Actress Award for its young star, Hadas Yaron.

A SCENE from Rama Burshtein’s ‘Fill the Void’ (photo credit: Courtesy)
A SCENE from Rama Burshtein’s ‘Fill the Void’
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rama Burshtein’s Fill the Void won the Best Actress Award for its young star, Hadas Yaron, in 2012 and is an emotional look at a young woman coming of age in the ultra-Orthodox community.
Burstein, who became ultra-Orthodox in her twenties (although she studied film at the Sam Spiegel School in Jerusalem before embracing religion), gives an insider’s view of the life of a haredi family coping with the loss of their older daughter in childbirth. Their 18-year-old daughter, Shira (Hadas Yaron), helps take care of her late sister’s baby, and finds herself unsure about whether to marry her sister’s widower (Yiftach Klein).
The rest of the family pushes her to marry him, but although she is attracted to him, she is understandably confused.
The plot is both tragic, romantic and suspenseful, the acting is superb and the cinematography by Asaf Sudri, which won awards all over the world, including from the European Film Academy, is outstanding.
The DVD, which sells for NIS 79.90 at DVD stores, features a “making-of” feature, deleted scenes and the trailer.
Eytan Fox’s Cupcakes (2013), a musical comedy about a group of friends in Tel Aviv who write a song that becomes Israel’s official entry in a Eurovision-like contest, was called a “candy-colored, buoyantly upbeat” musical by Variety. It stars some of Israel’s most celebrated actors, among them Dana Ivgy, who just won both Best Actress (for Zero Motivation) and Best Supporting Actress (for Next to Her) at the Ophir Awards in September.
This enjoyable film, which proves that Israeli movies don’t have to be dark and serious to be good, is available from, and at stores around Israel that sell DVDs. It features a behind-the-scenes short.
The endlessly fascinating and controversial story of Rezso Kasztner, which made news just last week when his assassin gave a newspaper interview, is detailed in a complex and gripping documentary, Killing Kasztner, by Gaylen Ross. The New Republic called the film “superb” and I named it as one of the 10 Best Movies of 2009.
Kasztner, known as the Jewish Schindler, was a Hungarian Jew who negotiated face-to-face with Adolf Eichmann, rescuing 1,700 Jews by train to Switzerland, which some believe to be the largest successful rescue effort of its kind during the Holocaust. Yet Kasztner was condemned as a traitor in Israel, where he settled, and was accused as a collaborator in a trial that divided a nation. He was forever branded as the “man who sold his soul to the devil.” In 1957, he was assassinated by Jewish right-wing extremists in Tel Aviv.
American director Ross investigates this tale of murder, intrigue and heroism through the desperate efforts of Kasztner’s only daughter to redeem her father’s name – as well as his granddaughter, MK Merav Michaeli – and also speaks to the assassin, who breaks his silence about killing Kasztner.
The DVD features an expanded version of the film, never seen in the US, which runs over three hours and includes several bonus features, among them first-hand accounts by survivors of the rescue train and commentary by former Israeli Supreme Court justice and Eichmann prosecutor Gabriel Bach. You can buy Killing Kasztner DVD on Amazon or on the website, Assi Dayan, who died last spring, was known both for his work as a director and an actor, and a new box set of some of his most celebrated films spotlights his work both in front of and behind the camera.
A new special edition of the 1976 comedy, Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer, directed by Dayan, is an irreverent look at how a swindler fleeing those he has cheated takes refuge with an IDF reserve unit in the Sinai. It was one of several movies Dayan made starring the comedy trio HaGashash HaHiver (The Pale Tracker), Gavri Banai, Shaike Levi and Yisrael Poliakov.
Life According to Agfa (1992), Dayan’s most celebrated film as a writer/director, is about a group of alienated Tel Aviv residents who meet a bar, and won a Special Mention at the Berlin Film Festival.
His last film, Dr. Pomerantz, was released in 2011. Dayan wrote, directed and stars in this look at a troubled, self-loathing psychologist.
Shlager (1979) is a classic comedy/ musical directed and written by Dayan which also stars the HaGashash HaHiver members, as well as the late singer Ofra Haza, in one of her rare film appearances.
The 1976 comedy Eizeh Yofi Shel Zarot (What Beautiful Problems) was directed and written by Dayan and stars Ze’ev Revach, Gabi Amrani and Aliza Rosen.
Melech le Yom Ehad (King for a Day) is a 1982 comedy about a hotel porter whose ex-wife and daughter live in America. When his daughter comes to Israel for a visit, the porter pretends to be a wealthy hotel guest in order to impress her.
The 1995 comedy An Electric Blanket Called Moshe was written and directed by Dayan and stars Shmil Ben-Ari.