Remade: A Closer Look at Remakes of Israeli Films

08/1/2016

The words "film remake" are not always met with exuberance and excitement, oftentimes because the film being remade was highly appreciated in its original form. But what about films you never heard of, from a country far away? There's a long tradition of Israeli cinema getting remade, and a new one (you may recognize from AJFF) is on the way.

We wanted to take a look at some other remakes, including that aforementioned AJFF pick that will be adapted for TV in the upcoming future.

The Last American Virgin
This 1982 coming-of-age story is a remake of the 1978 Israeli film, Eskimo Limon. The remake closely resembles its Israeli counterpart, which makes sense as both were helmed by the same writer and director, Boaz Davidson. The plot centers around, as the title implies, three high schoolers dedicated to losing their virginity any way they can. We've never seen that plot before, have we?

The most notable change? The original had a more nostalgic feel, centering on kids growing up in 1950s Israel; the remake became set in then-present-day suburban Los Angeles, because, well... it was for American audiences. Unfortunately, the remake did not do as well as the original, and while there may be many reasons why, perhaps the going up against another, similarly themed film didn't help. 1982 also happened to be the year of Fast Times at Ridgemont High.

This film apparently still has more to offer though, as there has been talk of the film being remade yet again in recent years, most recently by Brett Ratner as it seems Hollywood won't soon tire of this common teenage film trope. 

The Debt
This 2010 film is a remake of a 2007 alternate history, thriller film Ha-Hov. The story centers around former Mossad agents who must re-visit a former mission, involving the capture of a Nazi war criminal known as the Surgeon of Birkenau. Part of the film's suspense lives in the story's parallel track, unfolding both in the past and present.

The remake was a modest success, powered by the powerhouse female leads, Jessica Chastain and Helen Mirren, though many reviews seem to follow the trend noted in The Telegraph, which mentioned that, "it’s just a shame the film’s two halves don’t dovetail more skillfully"

The Angriest Man in Brooklyn
This 2014 remake of the 1997 Israeli film The 92 Minutes of Mr. Baum starred Robin Williams as a bitter man whose doctor tells him he has a brain aneurysm and only 90 minutes to live. He then spends his time both reconciling himself to his fate and making amends with everyone he has wronged. The film was not well received, though Williams' death has made it (arguably) more poignant.

Zero Motivation 
AJFF audiences will remember this hit from the 2015 festival; it's one of Israel's most commercially successful films to date. Zero Motivation, is in the works to become a TV series. After viewing the film at Tribeca, Amy Poehler and Natasha Lyonne bought the television rights to adapt the story of female soldiers making the most of their posting to a remote military base. No additional details are available at this time, but we're hoping against hope Natasha Lyonne somehow can channel the dry humor of her runs in the American Pie films and Orange is the New Black into this venture.

Abulele
One more recent entry: just this month, Epic Pictures has acquired the remake rights for the 2015 film, Abulele. The movie is about about a boy who becomes friends with a mythical monster who helps him through a hard period in his young life. The film earned plaudits recently at the 2016 TIFF Kids International Film Festival.