The first home-grown films to be made in what is now Israel were Zionist propaganda movies produced during the pre-state period for such institutions as the Jewish fund.
After 1948 several small film studios were established and a number of feature films made. Inevitably during this period, heroic images predominated and cinematic portrayals tended to deal with such issues such as war, ideology, kibbutzim and state-building. Two films typical of this formative period in Israeli cinema were Hill 24 Does Not Answer and They Were Ten.
Quality Israeli film-making got underway on a significant scale during the 1960s and 1970s when Israeli films began to deal with a broader spectrum of social issues such as the travails of new immigrants or the tensions between different Jewish communities. One genre of low-budget comedy popular since that time is the bourekas (named after a type of pastry), which pits stereotyped emotional, lazy and vulgar Sephardi against snobbish, humourless and dull Ashkenazi. Nowadays the most successful Israeli films tend to be deeply rooted in the Israeli experience, focusing on the Arab-Israeli conflict or Holocaust-related topics rather than on international themes.
In recent years several Israeli-made films have found success overseas and an increasing number of international film makers have been attracted by the country’s stunning locations and sophisticated filming infrastructure. The Israel Film Center, a division of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, functions to promote film production in Israel by both local and foreign film makers.
Inaugurated in the 1970s, the Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa Cinematheques are dedicated to promoting the art of cinema and educating the public on different aspects of this art. Israel also hosts several major film festivals including Jerusalem Cinematheque’s Jerusalem Film Festival, Tel Aviv Cinematheque’s Jazz, Films and Videotape festival, Haifa Cinematheque’s ‘Neighbours’ – Haifa International Film Festival and Tel Aviv University’s International Student Film Festival.
State-run broadcasting services in Israel comprise the eight-station Kol Israel (‘Voice of Israel’) radio network, which offers programming in 17 languages, and Channel 1 television, which presents educational, information and entertainment programmes in Hebrew, Arabic and English. Both operate under the aegis of the Israel Broadcasting Authority (IBA). One local commercial channel, Channel 2, incorporates certain hours reserved daily for educational television. Cable and satellite TV are now widely available.
Israel is well-resourced in private film and video production companies which are exhaustively listed in most international film and television directories.