Ari Y. Kelman

in Jewish Studies

ISBN: 9780199840731
Published online August 2012 | | DOI:

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The relationship between Jews and film cannot be limited to any single narrative. It is not only the story of powerful Hollywood moguls, for good or ill. Nor is it only the story of unflattering portrayals or failed attempts to represent the horrors of the Holocaust. It also does not hew to the narratives of a national cinema, whether Israeli, Yiddish, or diasporic. Rather, the relationship between Jews and film is as multifaceted as the communities who become audiences when the lights go down, and as complex as the processes that bring films to them. The reason for this is simply that the relationship between Jews and film is fueled by more than a mere accounting of Jewish directors, Jewish characters, or Jewish audiences. The variety of languages, countries, themes, stories, performers, and politics represented in the relationship between Jews and film both captures the diversity of Jewish experience and represents the challenges inherent in discussing Jews and film as a coherent body of work. Resultant scholarship reflects this diversity and lights on the variety of ways the relationship between Jews and film has manifested itself. Sometimes it meant veiling the Jewishness of a particular performer or character (see almost all of the Marx Brothers’ films). Other times, it seemed that Jewish producers felt that the best way to tell a Jewish story was to have a non-Jew tell it (see, for example, Schindler’s List or Crossfire). Some saw films as ciphers for Jewish themes even though they contained no overt Jewish context (such as ET), while others (including Israeli films like Behind the Walls) reveal the limitations of what a “Jewish narrative” could be. The significance and limitations of the relationships among consumers, producers, themes, and images shape negotiations over film’s meaning, and, both on screen and off, these negotiations reveal deeper issues about Jewishness, politics, culture, and community. This article highlights some of the key resources in mapping out and thinking through this dynamic relationship as it plays out across the globe, both on screen and off.

Article.  6899 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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