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Israeli Film without a Political Agenda – Let’s have more of it!

November 29, 2009 – 5:16 pm3 Comments
A scene from "A Matter of Size"

A scene from "A Matter of Size"

By ariel

In March this year, I returned from a nine month spell in Israel.  While there, I stayed with some family friends in Ramat Aviv where the lady of the house is an avid Israeli and Jewish film buff.

I remarked to her on a number of occasions that I had not watched more than a couple of recent Israeli films because I don’t like when art comes with a political agenda. Whatever happened to lovely films like Salah Shabati, Kazablan, Eskimo Limon, or the exceptional Ushpizin? Why does every Israeli film have to be made through the prism of the Arab-Israel conflict or the Holocaust? Sure, all films in all cultures reflect the nature of that society, but not to such a political, soul-searching extent. I lamented the lack of Israeli filmmakers who are willing to produce a simple love story or comedy without all the political and emotional baggage.

How pleased I was to discover that the opening night screening at the Festival of Jewish Cinema in Sydney would be of the new Israeli comedy, A Matter of Size (in Hebrew, Sippur Gadol literally, A Big Story). I immediately purchased tickets to what would promise to be a light hearted comedy about a group of obese Israelis who – led by a shy chef named Herzl – give up on the ideal physical image and embrace their size to form a sumo wrestling club. (For details see here).

Fluent Hebrew speakers will have much more fun with this film as they revel in the uniqueness of modern Israeli slang. When it comes to foreign films, I am usually sceptical of subtitles, often finding that slang and idioms are not translated effectively. However, in this case (as with another film I saw at the Festival), the translators do a near exemplary job in conveying the nuances of the dialogue. Very satisfying for a language stickler like myself.

If you see one film at the festival this year, make it A Matter of Size. For those like me, who are frankly sick of the recent trend of political cinema emerging from Israel, this will be a pleasant night out, guaranteed to leave you in stitches. As the festival website states, this film is “[a] declaration of personal pride and feeling good about oneself, this is a touching and life-affirming film”. I can’t wait for the DVD release!

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  • frosh says:


    Is your frustration with politics in art/film because you do not like any politics at all to be mixed in with entertainment, or rather because you perceive  that politics embedded in art seems to almost always come from the same political wing?

  • ariel says:

    frosh, it’s your first point.
    Having said that, as much as I would rather not see politcs in art at all, it would be nice if there were some more “proud to be Israeli” works made if only to balance out the left-wing self flagellation out there.
    When it comes to political satire, I have no problem at all, as long as both sides are treated the same way.

  • I don’t have a problem with artists making political statements (providing they do this with some understanding of the issue). Problem is that too many Israeli films seem to be about the conflict, to the point where everyone seems to think that it defines Israel, which it certainly doesn’t. There is so much more to the country than its conflict with its neighbours, and citizens should be telling those stories as well.

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