Visual Arts Professor Shirly Bahar Publishes 'Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine'

BY Nicole Saldarriaga, August 31, 2021

Adjunct faculty member Shirly Bahar recently published her first book, Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine: Performance, the Body, the Home with Bloomsbury/IB Tauris.


The book analyzes a wave of documentaries that were released in the early 2000s after the downfall of the Oslo era. These documentaries were "centered on Palestinians' and Mizrahim's (Jews of Middle Eastern origins) historical and lived experiences of pain and oppression across Israel-Palestine and beyond. In her analysis, Bahar explores the different but related forms of oppression and racialization experienced by these groups under Israeli rule, and how Palestinians and Mizrahim translated their pain to the screen.


According to Bahar, Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine was born out of a web of efforts of writing, thinking, publishing, and much emotional labor—efforts that were very personal, and always collective. Bahar said, “As I reflected in my concluding notes to the book, I hope this book will ‘nourish the spectator’s radical identification with someone else’s pain as their own.' I want to thank my colleagues at SOA and most importantly, the students in the MFA program of the School of Visual Arts, for always inspiring me to consider the journeys that my writing will embark on once completed, out in the world by itself, for future readers to explore. I hope these journeys send readers and writers to more and new creative journeys of lifting lesser heard voices and forms of representation, and political journeys of collective solidarity, care, and connection."

According to Professor Paula Rabinowit of the University of Minnesota, "Documentary Cinema in Israel-Palestine is a major contribution to understanding 21st century transnational film history. Looking at key documentary films by Arab and Mizrahi filmmakers living within the contested borders of Israel-Palestine, Bahar develops an argument for the vital place of documentary within contemporary politics and identities. Deeply attuned to the process by which documentary invokes and provokes intimacies across various boundaries...Bahar makes a case for documentary as a philosophical, as much as visual and aural, form...In this profound study, we see how documentary and its critics mediate a uniquely performative and affective politics in Israel-Palestine, but also elsewhere and everywhere.”


Dr. Shirly Bahar’s writing and curatorial work explores the relationships between representation, politics, and the body. Bahar has published articles about film, performance art, literature, gender and queer representation from Israel/Palestine, Turkey, and the US. Since 2013, Bahar has been curating art shows, public programs, and community events in New York City and across the US. She earned her PhD from New York University (2017), MA from Brandeis University (2010), and her BFA/Ed from Hamidrasha School of Arts (2006), where she specialized in sculpture and video installation.