In the most iconic scene of the 80'S Israeli film Aviya's summer the mother throws her only child a birthday party. The mother is a holocaust survivor, severely traumatized, and excluded from Israeli society because of her mental issues. She puts so much effort into the celebration: there are cakes and decorations, but there are no guests. Aviya's classmates don't want anything to do with this family.

The film wounded a generation of Israeli viewers. It came out three decades ago, but to this date 80's kids fear that no one will show up to their party. The birthday scene entered the national consciousness. Israelis continue to implore RSVP invitations – "Please attend, and please show up early. I don't want to go through an 'Aviya's summer".

This story reflects how Israeli film shapes our conscious and subconscious, our dreams and nightmares. One can't understand Israeli history and society if one doesn't watch Israeli movies. An interesting and important fact about Israel is that it doesn't have a constitution. It is constantly searching for and redefining its identity, and local films played and continue to play an essential role in this journey.

Israel is a young country. Israeli film is even younger. Israeli cinema grew as an industry only in the 70s and went through tremendous change, precisely like Israel.

The first phase: popular comedies that became so popular because their ethnic humor defused the ethnic tensions in Israel. Then, Israeli film turned more political and less commercial in the 80s throughout the 90s.

With the beginning of a new millennium, Israeli film changed its face again. In its early stages, most Israeli filmmakers were cis-gendered, white, heterosexual, Jewish, Ashkenazi, and non-religious. They lived in the big cities, mainly the liberal Tel Aviv. Then, Israeli film became more pluralistic. Much more pluralistic. Today, the film scene is probably one of the most inclusive industries in the local society and one of the most diverse in the world. In two of the last three years, the Israeli film academy awarded the best film award to a film directed by a woman director. In the two previous years, it was awarded to a movie in which half or more of the dialogue is in Arabic. Israeli films are made by and about Jews and Arabs, non-religious and ultra-orthodox, and all genders.

Israeli film was once almost exclusively Hebrew speaking. Today, Israeli films speak in multiple languages: Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Amharic, and more. This reflects the various countries of origin of the filmmakers.

This inclusivity is reflected in the festival's line-up: Barren was made by a Rabbi and took place in an ultra-orthodox society; IN BED was created by a queer filmmaker, and its first scene takes place in the Pride parade. In June Zero a young filmmaker goes back to the '60s and in Karaoke, a first-time filmmaker lovingly depicts the generation of his parents. Valeria is getting married jumps between Hebrew, English, and Ukrainian. Furthermore, in every frame, there is at least one female character. Virginity was made by a ground-breaking Israeli cultural icon who re-wrote and re-worked the representation of Sephardic society and culture.

However, whenever I'm asked what I admire most about Israeli film and what is unique about it, the first thing that comes to mind is its willingness to discuss explosive and touchy subjects. The first film that came out In the MeToo era and touched on sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace was Israeli: Working Woman. Barren, a more recent film, tackles a taboo: rape in the Ultra-Orthodox society. This is an example of how daring Israeli films are, how early and ready they are to dive into uncharted territories and face uncomfortable issues. These films take place in a specific Israeli setting. Nevertheless, and unfortunately, the themes are universal. They hold a mirror up to both Israeli society and the global community.

What is Israeli film today? It is more varied, daring and female-oriented than it has ever been, but it still faces incredible challenges. The quality of Israeli television is widely recognized and deserves a separate article. Israeli filmmakers face tough competition in their homeland.

Israeli filmmakers face many other obstacles: tight budgets, political pressure, cultural boycotts, etc. They refuse to throw in the towel. Israeli film lovers continue to over-populate the cinemas. One of the most inspiring experiences I had this year was when I was shut out of a packed screening at the Jerusalem film festival. Contrary to the birthday in "Aviya's Summer," Israeli film is a party many want to join. It shaped our lives in the past, and it will continue to do so in the future.

Dr. Avner Shavit