No. 97 Hem Hayu Asara (They Were Ten)
The hardscrabble version of the founding of the Jewish state
1961, dir. Baruch Dienar. Set in the late 19th century, this first truly great production of Israeli cinema follows a small band of Zionist pioneers as they struggle to settle an unwelcoming strip of the land of Israel. As one Israeli critic noted, unlike the vast and inviting landscape of John Ford’s westerns, Hem Hayu Asara’s outdoors were shot to resemble a kind of prison, trapping the pioneers in endless battles against malaria, hostile neighbors, and other disasters. The film inspired scores of directors to attempt their own take on the founding of the Jewish state.