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MSU's Israeli Film Festival offers students unique look into Israeli culture

October 28, 2015
<p>Jewish studies program logo, courtesy.&nbsp;</p>

Jewish studies program logo, courtesy. 

MSU’s annual Israeli Film Festival introduces students to works they might not otherwise see — works that tackle adult mental health care, divorce and a wide range of cross-culturally relevant issues with uniquely Israeli sensibilities.

In selecting films for the festival, Hebrew professor Yore Kedem and the festival’s other organizers said they sought to show films with a broad appeal.

“The film we showed earlier deals with aging, and the film we just saw now deals with adult mental retardation," Kedem said. "These are issues that are shared by many cultures and many people in the world."

The films shown included “Next to Her," which follows an Israeli woman who is caring for her mentally disabled adult sister.

“My brother, he has autism," nursing junior Emma Morris said. "Just watching what was happening with the sister with the disability, it was very real."

Other films shown were more political in nature. “African Exodus” is a documentary examining the plight of Israel’s African refugees, whose recent migration to Israel has been a source of sociopolitical tension.

“In this country we have the same issue with Mexicans and with Central Americans who have entered into the country illegally,” director of "African Exodus" Brad Rothschild said.

Rothschild said he believes both Israel and U.S. refugee policies are flawed.

“The difference is that there is a refugee, asylum seeker policy in the United States, whereas Israel doesn’t really have one for non-Jewish asylum seekers,” Rothschild said.

The festival’s organizers said although many of the films shown criticized Israeli policies, the films were funded by the Israeli government.

“Israeli democracy is flawed in many ways,” festival organizer and director of MSU’s Jewish Studies Program Yael Aronoff said. “On the other hand, this particular phenomena of the government supporting films critical of what’s going on in the country speaks well of freedom of speech in Israel.”

The festival’s organizers believe Israel’s film industry is unique.

“It’s a relatively tiny country with a population of about eight million and that it has such a lively, creative, dynamic, and experimental movie industry is kind of remarkable,” festival organizer and faculty member in both the Jewish and Muslim Studies programs Marc Bernstein said.

Students said they believed it was important to view films showing an Israeli perspective.

“Israel is a country full of culture and people who care about more than war,” social relations and policy junior Carly Sternberg said. “Or what is on the political agenda at the moment.”

The festival is an annual event put on by the MSU Jewish Studies Program in cooperation with a number of organizations. Cosponsors ranging from MSU’s Hillel Jewish Student Center to MSU’s African Studies Center worked together to put on this year’s festival.

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