Associate 2022-23

Rachel S. Harris

Comparative & World Literature

With a Wider Lens: Rediscovering Lost Israeli Cinema 1948-1964 

Harris image
Still of Margo (Gila Almagor) from El Dorado (1963), directed by Menachem Golan.

Professor Harris’s new book project explores the origins of the Israeli film industry. Using recently restored films and newly available archive materials, the book explains how these nearly-forgotten films, celebrated in their day, reposition our knowledge of the film industry's development. The book project uncovers this little-known period of Israeli cinema, in which filmmakers experimented with genre, and taboo themes such as inter-marriage, racism, Holocaust trauma, discrimination against Arabs, and desire for emigration. Drawing on international networks in which they had been previously employed, filmmakers were able to craft the foundation for a now internationally recognized and award-winning film industry. Yet, following changes in financing and studio control in the mid-1960s, it would take three decades before Israeli film would again engage such politically explosive subject matter. 

Combining traditional film analysis with new methods in film history that focus on a wider range of industry primary materials such as censorship files, diaries, fan magazines, production materials, and correspondence, With a Wider Lens also considers influences on film production, financing, and distribution. By examining the mechanisms that operated in relation to the state's institutional and legal regimes, Professor Harris challenges a tradition that privileges the roles of auteurs, particularly directors, writers, and producers. Focusing away from these traditionally male professions elucidates the impact of other film-industry workers such as studio heads, casting directors, and film-editors—more traditionally female professions—in the shaping of cinema. Returning to this history reveals the major but often overlooked responsibility women had for its growth. Through a careful reading of the films; close study of the economic, ideological, and political influences that impacted and shaped the film industry; and a consideration of international dynamics on production and distribution, this book will offer a new account of this founding phase of Israeli cinema.