Israeli women's documentaries 1988-2004 : politics, strategies, aesthetics

PhD Thesis

Gold, Gali 2007. Israeli women's documentaries 1988-2004 : politics, strategies, aesthetics. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Arts and Digital Industries
AuthorsGold, Gali
TypePhD Thesis

Until the late 1980s, films made by women were a rarity in Israeli cinema. However, during the 1990s women became a significant part of the prosperous scene of documentary filmmaking. While Israeli features have gained critical attention within academia and have become the focus of some cutting-edge research on Israeli culture, Israeli documentaries, and the proliferation of women who make film within this mode, remain a theoretical lacuna to this day.
This thesis is an in-depth study of this recent film corpus of Israeli documentaries made by women.

Through detailed readings of key films and reference to many others, I identify the thematic, ideological, formal and aesthetic characteristics of this body of
work, and the way it relates to the culture from which it emerges. Through this close reading and by applying a variety of theoretical frameworks from film studies,
cultural studies and feminist film theory, I offer another story about the Israeli place and Israeli identity as it is accounted for, reproduced and challenged in these
documentaries. This 'story' is constructed around the main sites of contestation over Israeli identity: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; The Holocaust, and The Orient. These
sites occupy a central place in both the national Zionist discourse and in the numerous documentaries made by women in the period in question.

This thesis argues that since the 1990s, women's documentaries have emerged as a site for the cultural expression of alternative notions of subjectivity, collectivity, and engagement with historical reality. The novelty and transgression of these alternative configurations is argued for through positioning these cultural productions in the particular spatio-temporal conjunction of Israel/Palestine and in relation to the
prevailing discourses in Israeli film and culture as a whole. Here, Zionist discourse - its dialectical relations with Israeli cinema and its bearings on gender identities -
serves as the core reference point for the positioning of these films in contemporary Israeli culture. The thesis argues that this makes it possible to identify and draw
meaning from the specific and particular strategies, aesthetics and political trajectories of these films. Elucidating those meanings and the way they come to bear on Israeli culture is both the motivation for and the outcome of this study.

KeywordsIsraeli cinema; Israeli documentaries made by women; Feminist film theory
Publication dates
PrintFeb 2007
Publication process dates
Deposited16 Jan 2014
Additional information

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