The chances of programming bring together two Israeli films that everything should separate. A sentimental fiction, All Eyes Off Me, by Hadas Ben Aroya, 34. A political documentary, Mizrahim. The Forgotten of the Promised Land, by Michale Boganim, 44. In truth, everything brings them together. Intimacy. Politics. The dull melancholy of an identity in perdition. And, of course, the fiction is full of politics, the documentary is steeped in affect. We know, in France, Hadas Ben Aroya, by her first feature film, People That Are Not Me, directed in 2016, released in 2018. She interpreted there, half the time naked, Joy, a young woman of the Israeli hype , distant feminine and Middle Eastern avatar of Woody Allen, who connects with a petulant stoicism the most catastrophic relationships.
All Eyes Off Me radicalizes the subject. This film, of a clearer savagery, is held in three tableaux, forming a portrait of a certain Avishag, a statuesque girl with milky skin, neither beautiful nor ugly. The first: a young woman, pregnant, thinks of telling her boyfriend at a party, who is actively taking care of another young woman (Avishag). Second tableau, this other woman very seriously wishes to be abused by this new lover. Finally, the same, severely damaged, plans to seduce the elderly man whose dog she is walking. Three movements, three resounding slaps. Plus two beautifully staged songs (Message personnel, by Françoise Hardy; Ze mikvar, by Matti Caspi, to a poem by Leah Goldberg). And, everywhere, beyond the flesh that is exposed, the desire that torments and the pleasure that tortures, insane and strange scenes, scratched and tender, as rarely seen.
A choice. The report of an abortion, by a drunk girlfriend at a party, supposed to reassure you, in reality debited with a machine gun and as bloody as a butcher’s stall. The enamored listening of a robotic “X Factor” contestant in a dog park. The languor at the edge of a swimming pool strewn with dead leaves, on a sad song which tells the life which passes, worthy of the spleenitic cinema of Lucrecia Martel. Self-annihilation next to a man who could be your lover but who treats you like a father. No more inane talk driven by panic. Unwelcome confessions that get out of hand. Initiatives that backfire. A way of walking, of feeling, of loving, as if beside yourself and the society around you.
In a word, and once again, a generational film, with a heroine who looks on her smartphone at the instructions for a record player and in doing so buries part of her audience, a way of conducting her existence on the mode of permanent performance, and this tacit feeling that by dint of no longer being able to experience reality, one lives one’s life beside the plate. This, no doubt, says something about the state of Israeli youth. At the same time, Jean-Luc Godard, in the 1960s, was already making magnificent films on the question. Because it is in this high lineage that we must situate the cinema, iconoclastic, overflowing with creative sap, of Hadas Ben Aroya.
Of more classical inspiration, Michale Boganim’s beautiful documentary, through the political question it confronts, takes us at first sight to completely opposite shores. Charlie Boganim, the director’s father, was indeed one of the figures of the Black Panthers of Israel, which, on the model of the black movement in the United States, revolted in 1971 against the segregation of Eastern Jews in a society run since the founding of the state by the Ashkenazi establishment. The film explores in this wake the cities of development where these populations were deliberately confined, soliciting the testimony of both old and new generations. On a subject as sensitive as this, the words of a historian lack the depth of the demonstration.
It is precisely because the film is more of an intimate testimony than a historical document. Rolled off in 1973 due to the Yom Kippur War, the Black Panther movement was a failure within the Sephardic community itself, whose voices fell on the traditional right-wing parties, which they brought to power in 1977. It is also a story of the vanquished that this film tells us, the portrait of a poorly known father and his aborted dream of justice, who quickly went into exile in France, in Arcueil, among other immigrants, before to come back later in Israel. Straddling the two countries herself, what the director questions in this regard, all the more keenly as she makes her own daughter appear in the film, is her problematic relationship to being Jewish and to her transmission.
We therefore see the confirmation, through these two films – but we could also cite Wall (2017), by Moran Ifergan, or The Death of Cinema and My Father Too (2020), by Dani Rosenberg –, a trend of Israeli cinema which broke with the golden age of the 2000s, marked by auteur films which never lost sight of the pre-eminence of the collective thing. Powerfully inaugurated by Nadav Lapid, the return of contemporary Israeli cinema to the individual in what is most intimate, its consecration of solipsism and instinctual affect speak of the degree of weariness or indifference that has grasped the relationship to politics in Israel. This movement reconnects in this respect with the Israeli cinematographic modernity of the 1960s, which shook off the yoke of propaganda cinema that dominated at the time. Uri Zohar, one of his most explosive figures, who died on June 2, sees his posterity rise in this capacity.