Late Summer Blues
|Late Summer Blues|
|Directed by||Renen Schorr|
|Produced by||Doron Nesher|
|Screenplay by||Doron Nesher|
|Music by||Rafi Kadishson|
Late Summer Blues is an award winning Israeli feature film directed by Renen Schorr, written by Doron Nesher and produced by Ilan de Vries. Initially released in 1987, the film was a box office hit and went on to become an Israeli classic. In 2016, after undergoing extensive digital image and sound restoration, it was rereleased to cinemas, becoming the first Israeli film to do so.
Plot & Characters
1970, Tel Aviv, Israel. A group of high school seniors, preparing to graduate and then to be drafted to the army under the shadow of the War of Attrition, try to find “togetherness” and to fulfill their personal dreams before embarking in to the unknown. When they learn that their friend, Yossi, the first classmate to be drafted, was killed in a training accident, they plan to turn their graduation ceremony into a pacifist showcase in his memory, in the spirit of the global student riots and the musical Hair.
The film is divided into four episodes, each named after its protagonist:
- Zvillich – An innocent, adored friend. The first of his class to be drafted.
- Araleh – A pacifist contemplating if to draft or draft-dodge. He protests by spraying anti-war graffiti around the city.
- Mossi – A gifted musician whose high physical profile requires he be drafted to combat service, although he dreams of serving in a military variety group.
- Margo – A diabetic who due to his illness cannot serve in the military. He documents the group with his Super 8 camera.
|Moshe Havazelet||Mossi's Father|
|Ariela Rubinovitz||Hava Carmeli|
Development & Production
Renen Schorr first wrote the film’s outline in 1976, while still a student at Tel Aviv University’s film department. It was based on his experiences with his own class, who wrote the famous “Senior’s Letter” in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 1970, during the War of Attrition. The letter, addressed to Prime Minister Golda Meir, stated that the class would willingly draft (military service is mandatory in Israel), but only under the condition that the government will commit to reach peace as soon as possible and by all means necessary. By writing this letter, they in effect publicly doubted the government’s commitment to peace. This was the first time an organized group of high school seniors in Israel stood up and asked the government questions, instead of being conformists like their parents..
Two years later, Doron Nesher, then a young Israeli actor who had already taken part in George Roy Hill's The Little Drummer Girl, joined Schorr in writing the screenplay. Nesher and Schorr wrote seven drafts between 1978-1985, all rejected by the Israel Film Fund. Parallel to that, they weren’t able to raise funds from private investors, as the screenplay was much different than the other films depicting youth produced in Israel at the time. Pacifist protagonists and political discussions were considered “box office poison”. Moreover, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce, who financed the grants for Israeli cinema at the time, refused to grant basic support to the film, implying that it was “anti-Israeli and catering to the PLO’s interests.”
In 1985, the Israel Film Fund, supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture, finally approved the film’s production. That winter, the film began shooting with a low budget of $150,000, and was the first full-length film for most of the cast and crew.
While casting, Schorr searched for actors with a “typical” Israeli look, and wasn’t afraid to cast unknown actors and “non-actors”, hoping to create a “fuller” Israeli experience. A large part of the film’s concept was connecting with Israeli and Tel Avivian culture, out of pride of it, and despite commercial considerations. The music and songs that accompany the film were chosen due to their iconic status in Israeli culture, each triggering emotions and thoughts deep in Israel’s collective psyche.
During rehearsals, to connect the young cast to the ‘60s feeling of “changing the world”, Schorr and Nesher shared and studied a large collection of records (Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Jimmy Hendrix, The Doors, Janice Joplin), books (by Herbert Marcuse, Viktor Frankl and more) and films (Rebel Without a Cause, Hair, The Deer Hunter Alice’s Restaurant, Breaking Away and more) with them.
Release & Reception
The film premiered as the 1987 Jerusalem Film Festival’s opening film, the first Israeli film to do so. The film was released commercially immediately afterwards, gaining both critical and commercial success, eventually screening to over 250,000 cinemagoers. Distributed by Kino International and Janus Films, the film was released commercially in the United States and Canada, a rare achievement for an Israeli film at the time.
The film has been included on many critics’ and public polls as one of the best Israeli films of all time.
Festivals & Awards
The film won the 1988 “Silver Menorah” (an earlier version of the Ophir Awards) for Best Film, Best Screenplay and Best Original Score. In addition, the film won Best Film at the 1988 Israeli Film Festival both in New York and Los Angeles.
The film premiered internationally in competition at the 1987 Montreal International Film Festival. It was screened at over 30 international film festivals, including: Toronto, Moscow, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Dublin, Vienna, Vancouver and more.
Cultural Influence & Criticism
The film has had a formative imprint on Israeli public, especially high school students, both emotionally and politically since its release and to this day. This is evident by the number of times the film has been reproduced as high school senior’s graduation plays. Furthermore, the film had a profound effect on many young viewers, who after watching, dealt with the idea of the mandatory draft for the first time, and even lead to the ‘90s “Senior’s Letter”.
The most surprising example of the film’s offbeat political effect were the various underground groups who sprayed “Araleh Was Right!” graffiti across the country, referencing the film’s pacifist, graffiti-spraying protagonist. The slogan is taken directly from another famous graffiti slogan in Israel, “Kahane Was Right!”, sprayed around the country after extreme-Right leader Rabbi Meir Kahane was assassinated.
Yet the press on both sides of the political spectrum criticized the film. The right-wing media stated that the film undermines the “sanctity” of military service, disrespects national symbols and values and touches on taboo subjects. They were especially shocked by the scene in which Araleh gives a picture of Prime Minister Golda Meir a puff from his joint, and by the sarcastic use of Joseph Trumpeldor’s famous last words, “It is good to die for our country.” For these reasons and more, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce unsuccessfully tried to stop the film from reaching international festivals.
The left-wing media was also critical, stating that the film “didn’t push the boundaries enough”, as one of the film’s protagonists, Araleh the pacifist, eventually shows up to the drafting base and joins the military.