Imagine you wanted to watch the new Avengers movie, but you could not read the subtitles, or you did not understand its language.
This “imaginary” situation is the reality for a quarter of a million people in Israel today.
18.7 million tickets were sold in 2017 across Israeli cinemas according to the Central Bureau of Statistics, with approximately 748 million shekels in revenue annually. Studies related to media exposure globally reveal that on average, children spend 4-7 hours a day in front of screens, with 72% spent watching series and movies. This cinematic content teaches children about human nature, society, values, and dreams.
How can it be that 248,176 Israeli’s with hearing and reading disorders cannot be exposed to this influential content because the Israeli cinematic experience is not adapted to their needs? Every year, about 200 foreign movies are imported to Israeli cinema, which constitute 92% of the movies screened annually. An 18-year-old suffering from cerebral palsy, for example, is uncapable of learning multiple languages, nor reading at the dynamic speed that movie subtitles require. He can then try to overcome this challenge by watching Israeli movies, but they are rarely released or inappropriate for his age and intellect. Can you believe that only 26 Israeli movies for teenagers were screened in mainstream cinemas over the course of Israel’s entire cinematic history? Instead, Israeli film production releases about 18-24 full length feature films annually.
An alternative to providing a cinematic experience is arranging a chaperone who will simultaneously translate the movie, both a disturbing and uncomfortable solution to the one who needs help and the audience. One may argue that not being able to go to the cinema might constitute a marginal issue, but considering cinematic power and influence within society, films can be the start of a new, inclusive, and equal era for Israel.
Another argument that can be made is that dubbing is an expensive business, but this problem can easily be resolved by modern technologic solutions. In 2019, where society is overwhelmed with information and movie productions have been simplified within a smartphone, how can it be that some still cannot go to the movies, or fall asleep watching Netflix? How can it be that film screening accessibility regulations exclude factors concerning reading and hearing disorders? Why should these disabled people be expelled from society and social discourse?
Israel has undergone, and still is undergoing, a significant regulatory change in recent years, in terms of physical and online accessibility. However, if we want to be a truly equal society, we cannot overlook the different and the weak amongst us but rather work to promote equality, prevent discrimination, encourage integration and active participation of the disabled in society.
The two step-solution to this problem is both easy and beneficial to the Israeli cinema industry specifically and Israeli society at large. Firstly, the Israeli film industry should dub in Hebrew one global blockbuster every other month. Secondly, the number of Israeli movies released aimed at teenagers should be increased. Not only will this solution help those in need but it can also be an opportunity for Israeli cinema to grow and flourish. Today, the Israeli media sector is experiencing major changes in its commercial channels, causing economic challenges and increasing demand for cheap content. Additionally, most Communication BA graduates are left unemployed or turn to different professional fields due to these economic challenges. Therefore, productions made by Israeli university graduates can both fill the demand for cheap content and help employ the graduates in their field of proficiency. Moreover, working on accessible cinematic content could be a great contribution to society for last-year B.A communication students who should produce an Israeli teenager-aimed movie or dub an international movie as their final assignment. Let’s improve the quality of life of the disabled and the content our kids are exposed to. Let’s increase the variety of Israeli movies for the next generation and enrich the experience and contribution of this generations’ communication students. Let’s allow the cinematic experience to help us start a new, equal era for Israel.