The Israeli film industry had humble beginnings even before the state of Israel was created starting at the end of the 19th century, were silent films and were made in a sporadic and unorganized manner. In the 1950s as some cinema halls were constructed in Israel, and together with new legislation that encouraged the cinematic evolution in Israel, the Israeli cinematic scene began to develop. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the industry really started to grow, much due to private investors. Government legislation allowed for attractive tax breaks on cinema tickets, and this encouraged companies to develop more productions. At the time however the film budgets that were available for cinematic projects was small and not very attractive for the younger population who wanted to study the subject, causing many would be film makers to study cinematography in London.
The 1970s brought significant changes to the world of film and cinema especially in “Beit-Tzvi, in Ramat-Gan, and the University of Tel-Aviv offering students the possibility of studying cinema. The “Bourekas” genre was developed, which turned out to be very successful and many of those films became instant classics in Israel, known by most Israelis. Many phrases and catchy terms from those films have migrated into everyday language. These films played a significant part in the representation of the culture, and are continuously played again and again to this day, mostly around Independence Day and other holidays. To name a few of these films: “Giv’at Halfon Eina Ona”, “Under the Nose”, “Snooker Party” and others.
The end of the 1980s were rough years for Israeli cinema, both in terms of the number of viewers, and due to low budgets for cinematic productions. Even so new filming school was opened by Sam Spiegel which remains the leading filming school in Israel. The 1990s brought a wave of new cinematic creativeness, with more mature and social themes, which brought a new found enthusiasm to the Israeli viewer and the cinemas filled once again. From 2000 the Israeli cinema went though some major breakthroughs, supported by various foundations such as the ‘Israeli cinema foundation’ and others that encouraged the creation of documentary films, with concepts and subjects that matter both local and internationally. This new wave of creativity brought the Israeli cinematic scene globally. Today many Israeli films are invited to film festivals world-wide, films like “Hearat Shulayim” and “Waltz with Bashir”, “Bufor” and “The Gatekeepers” were even nominated for the Oscars in the best foreign film and best documentary categories.
The Israeli cinema has profoundly changed since its humble beginnings and has tried to capture the changing social concepts and new ways of thinking in the Israeli society throughout the years. The first films were mostly revolved around Zionist and visionary motives towards the future of Israel. Then from the 1970s the topics changed more towards ethnic tensions between European and Eastern Jewish traditions. In the 80s the focus changed again towards individualism and social issues such as AIDS. Although the themes changed, there were always some key foundations in Israeli cinema that remained to this day: Security and the military reality in Israel, the Holocaust and the Jewish people, as well as the ongoing tensions between the Jewish and Arab people in Israel.