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Michal Bat-Adam

by Amy Kronish

Director, scriptwriter, actress of stage and screen, Michal Bat-Adam was born in Afulah to Yemima and Adam Rubin, who immigrated to Israel from Warsaw in 1939. As a young child living in Haifa, Bat-Adam remembers caring for her mother who was experiencing difficulty in functioning, because of mental illness. At the age of six and a half, she was sent for schooling to join her older sister Netta who was living at Kibbutz Merhavya in the Harod Valley. During this period, both sisters changed their last name to Bat-Adam (“daughter of Adam”). At the age of 17, before completing high school, Bat-Adam returned home to care for her mother.

As a young woman Bat-Adam studied to become a musician at the Tel Aviv Academy of Music. While studying viola and playing in an orchestra which accompanied musical theater productions, she impulsively decided to audition for acting school at Beit Zvi. Having been accepted, she followed her impulses and decided to study acting. Her early stage experience included leading roles in repertory theaters such as the Habimah National Theater, the Cameri Theater and the Haifa Theater. Her first major role on screen was in 1972 in I Love You Rosa, directed by Moshe Mizrahi (who later became her life partner), which was nominated for an American Academy Award as Best Foreign Film. Following this success, Bat-Adam appeared in a number of Mizrahi’s Israeli films, including The House on Chelouche Street (1973), Daughters, Daughters (1973), Women (1996) and his American Academy Award-winning French film, Madame Rosa (La vie devant soi, 1977).

The first Israeli woman to direct a feature film, Bat-Adam began her directing and script-writing career with the acclaimed French-Israeli co-production Moments, which tells the story of a chance encounter between two women. Thereafter, she wrote and directed two literary adaptations (The Lover and A Thousand and One Wives) and one television drama (The Flight of Uncle Peretz). Others of her films, autobiographical in nature, portray complex family relationships, often referring to her mother’s illness and painting portraits of women who expose their inner selves. In relying heavily on the interweaving of elements of past and present, she created a uniquely Israeli genre which mixes intimate emotions and passions with historical context. All of her films present, in an intensely sensitive manner, complex relationships, unique friendships, loving portrayals of elderly characters and passionate loves of women.

Bat-Adam wrote and directed one political film, The Deserter’s Wife (1992), which portrays a man’s powerlessness in the face of government policy concerning the occupation of the West Bank. Aya: An Imagined Autobiography is a profound look at the conflicts of mature women as they grapple with memories of their past. Moving between past and present, the film presents fragments of a life and reflects the emotional memory of the filmmaker—the accumulation of little fantasies and important things that occur in one’s mind. These are the elements that make up the “real” or “imagined” autobiography.

Bat-Adam starred in four of her own films and in Akiva Tevet’s literary adaptation, Atalia (1984). She teaches directing at Tel Aviv University and Camera Obscura and gives poetry recitals at the Habimah Theater. She married Moshe Mizrahi (b. 1931) in 1980 and gave birth to her son Daniel in 1980.

Bat-Adam has directed and scripted the following feature films: Moments (1979), A Thin Line (1981), Boy Meets Girl (1983), The Lover (1986), A Thousand and One Wives (1989), The Deserter’s Wife (1992), Aya: An Imagined Autobiography (1994), Love at Second Sight (1998) and one television drama, The Flight of Uncle Peretz (1993).

Awards

Best Actress award of the Israel Film Institute—I Love You Rosa, 1972, and Atalia, 1984.

Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress awards of the Israel Film Institute—Moments, 1979, and A Thin Line, 1981.

Bat-Adam, Michal - still image [media]
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Winner of several Best Film, Best Director and Best Actress awards from the Israel Institute of Cinema, the multi-talented Michal Bat Adam was the first Israeli woman to direct a feature film.

Institution: Michal Bat Adam

How to cite this page

Kronish, Amy. "Michal Bat-Adam." Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia. 1 March 2009. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on October 20, 2014) <http://jwa.org/encyclopedia/article/bat-adam-michal>.

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