Monday 4 July 2022
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Israeli Early Cinema

In memory of Jospeh Halachmi (1933-2019), Founder & Film historian

Lately, in the files of the Central Zionist Archive (CZA), I have discovered the story of the making of the first Zionist propaganda film, produced in 1899-1902.

The producer was Dr. Herzl, visionary of the state of Israel! In this first film one can find the beginnings of the Israeli film of today.

Through the history of Herzl's film, the paper tells how the Zionist film was born in 1899, its way from pre-cinema to cinema, what is the `Zionist Profile' of the Zionist motion picture, the dilemma of the contradiction between the `Institutional- National Demands' from a Zionist film to the artistic views and the commercial ambitions of the film-makers, the meaning of the `Commitment to the National Revival' of the film- makers, the initiatives as related to the production of ideological films, influence of universal cinema on the beginning of the Zionist film (Lumire, Edison, Bloch, British cinematography) and other points that explain the part the Zionist film took in building the new Jewish culture in Israel.

The World Zionist Organization (WZO) was one of the first political bodies that established a multimedia system for propaganda purposes. One of the main elements of this system was the `Motion Picture'. Hence, the Zionist Film is a unique and interesting historical case in the study of cinema history: one of the first ideological film systems in the world that still holds and has great influence on contemporary Israeli film-makers.

The role of the cinema in Zionist propaganda was to be a true and realistic `Eye Witness' in order to prove that Zionist vision can be materialized. This role created the special genre that I call, `Israeli Realism'. It is characterized by photographing facts and projecting them in order to show that the Zionist ideology creates in Israel a new existence that will solve the problem of the Jewish people. `Israeli Realism' still has a strong impact on the treatment of filming in Israel, from national, economic and artistic points of view.