Today kicks off Oscar week (the ceremony takes place next Sunday night), and the Los Angeles Times helps get things rolling with the observation that Ajami—the Palestinian-Israeli Arabic-language movie that has become Israel’s third consecutive Best Foreign Language Film nominee—is a decidedly unpolitical flick. The directors, the LAT notes,
Are preoccupied with human dynamics far more than political or social ones; if issues like military policy and economic inequality are present at all, it’s simply as part of the cinematic furniture.
That would be unremarkable in many places. But in the political-minded precincts of the Middle East, it reflects a substantial change.
And it’s a change you can see throughout the spectrum of Israeli cinema, according to the article. The two biggest Israeli-produced movies of 2009 are about “an overweight man who takes up sumo wrestling to deal with his insecurity” and “a coming-of-age love triangle involving twins and set in the 1980s.”
This is a positive development. Zionism was supposed to mean that Jews could live normal lives as Jews, no longer constantly haunted by history. So if Israelis are making crappy movies (and good ones!), like everyone else, then surely that’s a sign of success.
Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.