Burstein, Janet H. “Israeli Mothers in Film: ‘Re-visioning’ Culture, Engendering Autonomy.” Shofar 34.1 (2015): 57-80.
In many Israeli films, mothers play conventional supporting roles. But several critically important films made between the 1970s and the first decade of the new century become culturally reflexive as they feature mothers who become the interface between family and culture. In part, these films clarify the difference between satisfying cultural expectations, and living satisfactory personal lives. In part these films perform what Adrienne Rich called a “re-visioning” of cultural assumptions through their effects on mothers. The first section of this paper examines gendered cultural assumptions common to the state’s early decades. In the second section, seven films set in those decades mark maternal vulnerability to cultural imperatives apparently nourished by gendered assumptions. In the third section, four films by one filmmaker look back at a family’s past and move beyond it. Having “re-visioned” the cultural intersection in which one mother suffered and broke down, this filmmaker’s protagonists struggle through the first three films with the residue of the maternal ordeal; the repetitions and differences that figure in their memory of the personal past suggest the affective burden carried by recollective narrative. The protagonist of the fourth film in this series moves past personal remembering toward a more general understanding of mental distress that will engender her autonomy.