When one thinks of the cinematic renaissance that took place here in the early 2000s, in which Israeli cinema largely resembles what it looks like today, it is impossible not to think of one woman. Whether it is in the films “Late Wedding”, “The Orchestra’s Visit” and “Light”, or in the films she directed with her brother Shlomi, Ronit Alkabetz’s great performances adorn almost every good Israeli film that came out from 2001 to 2014.

In the autobiographical documentary “Black Notebooks”, Shlomi Alkabetz dives into the joint cinematic work and his and his sister’s relationship. Through a cinematic diary, it exposes us to the most intimate moment of the actress, who left us too soon, when she died of cancer in 2016.

The first part of the film focuses mainly on Vivian Amsalem, the character who created the alcoves inspired by their mother, who Ronit played in three films. Together with the editor Joel Alexis, who also edited the brothers’ feature films, Shlomi Alkabetz weaves the plot of the film “Takes You a Wife” along with his personal life and childhood memories from his Haifa youth home.

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“And Take a Wife for You”, Ronit and Shlomi’s debut film, was released in 2004 at the height of that cinematic renaissance. That same year it was packed with “The End of the World Left”, “The Ushpizin”, “Tribal Fire” and “Light”. The film has stood out at international festivals but has not impressed film critics in the country. Critic Meir Schnitzer of Maariv called Alkabetz’s game “extroverted and excessive” and called on Alkabetz to show more restraint.

The Israeli media did not know how to eat Ronit’s film and acting style at the time. For example, in an archive segment that appears in the film “Black Notebooks” you can see Dana Weiss asking Alkabetz with contempt why she thinks the film did not get the sympathy it expected. Alkabetz responds to her in the only way she knows and tells her that it is not out of place for Ashkenazi men to judge a film about a Moroccan woman.

Indeed, it took some time for Alkabetz to get the recognition she deserves, “And Take a Wife for You” is about an aguna woman who is in an unhappy marriage with a man who does not suit her. Long before words like “gaslighting” found their way into the mainstream, Alkabetz brought a female cinema that the media and critics here in the country simply were not ready for. Other than being nominated for an Actress, the film received no recognition at that year’s Ophir Awards ceremony, but as mentioned, it had tough competition.

It could be that if he had gone out today, “And Take a Wife for You” would have swept all the awards, but that’s the price that Alkabetz paid for being a groundbreaking filmmaker who was ahead of her time. Of course her recognition was deserved eventually came, though a little too late in the film “Divorce,” her last film as a director before she died prematurely.

But even in the last year of her life, while she was battling cancer, the Israeli media, which underestimated her first film in 2004, preferred to deal with sensations in 2016. For example, in an interview on the “Shesh Am” program, Jonathan Rieger and Oded Ben-Ami make an “ambush” for the actress and ask her about the Moshe Ivgi affair, even though she even came to talk about a new French series starring her. In response, Alkabetz chooses to simply leave the studio. It is interesting to imagine what Alkabetz would say about the way the media covers the Erez Driggs affair, for example.

Truth be told, the Israeli media has always not known how to deal with the complexity of movies and when it does not ignore them most of the year, it mostly chooses to engage in political scandals and things unrelated to the film itself and it only gets worse year by year. Israeli filmmakers should simply do as Alkabetz does and simply leave the studio. And as for the audience, do not listen to critics and reporters, just go see the movies and judge for yourselves.

By Editor

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