Bourekas films (Hebrew: סרטי בורקס) were a genre of Israeli-made comic melodrama films popular in Israel in the 1960s and 1970s.
Haaretz film critic Uri Klein describes Bourekas films as a "peculiarly Israeli genre of comic melodramas or tearjerkers... based on ethnic stereotypes". They were "home-grown farces and melodramas that provided escapist entertainment during a tense period in Israeli history". The term is said to have been coined by the Israeli film director Boaz Davidson, the creator of several such films, as a play-on-words on the "Spaghetti Western" genre, known as such because that particular Western subgenre was produced in Italy. Bourekas are a popular food in Israeli cuisine.
Although Bourekas films were some of the most successful in the box office, they typically received terrible reviews from critics. They were cited as "low-brow" and "vulgar", with great concern as to this genre of film representing the Israeli people abroad. In critiquing Sallah Shabbati Biltzki in Al HaMishmar said, "Because parties in Israel are presented not only in the distorted mirror of a distorted humor but also in the ugly mirror of the image of public and organizational life...One has to think twice if such a film should represent us abroad".
At the end of the 1970s, the popularity of the Bourekas film declined. In the 1980s, Israeli films became more politically charged and began to address controversial topics. Nowadays many of the Bourekas films have gained cult status in Israel.
The main theme in most Bourekas films is the conflict between ethnic cultures in Israel, in particular between the Mizrahi Jews and the Ashkenazi Jews, and in colonialist terms, between the "third world" (Mizrahi) and the "first world" (Ashkenazic).: 212 The protagonist is usually a Mizrahi Jewish man, almost always poor, canny and with street smarts, who comes into conflict with the institutions of the state or figures of Ashkenazi origin—mostly portrayed as rich, conceited, stuck-up, cold-hearted and alienated. In many of these films, actors imitate different Hebrew accents, especially that of Jews originating from Morocco, Persia, and Poland. They employ slapstick humour, alternative identities and a combination of comedy and melodrama.
Zuckermann (2005) argues that although "burekas films like snúker (Boaz Davidson 1975) and khakhám gamliél (Joel Silberg 1974) are regarded by many as the epitome of mizrahi culture, [they] are hybridic and modelled upon Ashkenazic shtetl life as in kúni lémel and shtétl kabtsíel in Méndele Móykher Sfórim's beémek habakhá.": 213
In a paper entitled "A Shtetl in Disguise: Israeli Bourekas Films and their Origins in Classical Yiddish Literature", Rami Kimchi claims that the portrayal of Israeli Mizrahi communities in these films bears a strong resemblance to the portrayal of the 19th century East European shtetl by classic Yiddish writers. Kimchi attributes the commercial success of these films to their "hybridity", i.e. they were Israeli/Mizrahi and Diasporic/Ashkenazi at one and the same time, thereby satisfying the political, sociological, and psychological needs of both Mizrahi and Ashkenazi audiences in Israel. He believes eleven films produced between 1964 and 1977 make up the corpus of the genre.
Bourekas films were highly successful in Israel during the 1960s and 1970s, but were also criticized for being shallow. Some of the main actors and directors were:
"Gefilte fish" films, also known as "bourekas for Ashkenazim", are a marginal group of Bourekas films that feature Ashkenazi protagonists and ghetto folklore. Some films in this subgenre include:
Several prominent Bourekas films are listed below in chronological order of production.