Susan Sontag's Israel
UNINTENTIONALLY and successfully, the Israelis have resisted the efforts of moviemakers to capture the drama of their lives, be it in so-called “documentaries” or in made-up treatments written for the occasion or based on novels or short stories. That so much of visual and emotional interest should elude the number-one medium calls for explanation. Who has written, directed, produced the bad or unsatisfactory movies? Perhaps the best talents in the field, certainly the wisest, have steered clear of Israeli themes. Europeans and Americans, they probably felt that they did not know enough about the place, and could not hope to learn without living there a long time.
So, both before the Six-Day War-when the name of Israel was a piety in the West-and after-as it picked up nasty overtones-the movies seen were heartwarmers and tearjerkers, fundraisers, and some competent travelogues, cataloging the excavated ruins and reclaimed landscape. Hollywood especially, with its famous large proportion of Jews, put out big-budget spectaculars like Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow that did good business in America and made audiences in Tel Aviv laugh and groan.
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