Doubtful (2018)

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Directed by Eliran Elya
Country: Israel

The story depicted in “Doubtful”, an Israeli social drama written and directed by debutant Eliran Elya, was inspired by real events, which is not a relevant factor for us to overlook its seemingly familiar tones and inevitable conclusions.

Tel-Aviv native Assi (Ran Danker - “Eyes Wide Open”), a director and screenwriter, ‘volunteers’ as a film teacher at a Southern Israeli school for juvenile delinquents after a motorcycle accident. The unruly young misfits often turn the classroom into battle rings, and police interventions are not uncommon. Because they are minors, house arrest is the usual punishment for those who don’t follow the rules. This is what was prescribed to the wild, provocative Eden (Adar Hazazi Gersch), after an ugly fight with a colleague.
 
At first, Assi seems not to bother with the confrontational and often aggressive behavior of his students, but then he starts to care, especially about Eden, whom he suspects to have stolen his wallet and cellphone. Without money to return to Tel Aviv, Assi finds where the student in question lives, leaving his camera in exchange for some money and earning the sympathy of his emotionally unstable single mother, Alma (Hilla Sarjon). Even if the film suggests something more, don’t expect a love story involving the latter because Assi is obsessed with Liraz (Liron Ben-Shlush), a local grocery store clerk who doesn’t seem very pleased with his detachment and uncharming posture. This is a frustratingly underdeveloped segment of the drama.

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Oftentimes, Assi seems as much aimless and helpless as his young students and maybe that’s why he becomes so attached to Eden, a misfit who collects and sells plastic bottles with the intention of buying a restaurant for his mother.

The narrative is interspersed with brief headshots of the students telling us something personal about themselves. The stories reflect problematic backgrounds, traumatic experiences, and tense family atmospheres, most of the times described emotionlessly.

Regardless of the respectable intentions, Elya missed the opportunity to do something bolder with a recurrent topic, treading the same paths that many other films did successfully. The choppily edited sequences and the inept score didn’t help the down-to-earth scenes to reach the desired emotional states, while on the contrary, the cast, featuring a considerable number of non-professional actors, provided the restless undertones to keep the film minimally interesting.

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One Week and a Day (2016)

Directed by: Asaph Polonsky
Country: Israel

Every person reacts in a different way in the face of grief and loss. That's the main topic of “Two Weeks and a Day”, a bittersweet Israeli drama written and directed by American-born Israeli-raised Asaph Polonsky.

For a debut, the filmmaker managed to associate narrative clarity and very observant details to a slightly offbeat tale, which, despite the heaviness related to the subject itself, ended up being hilarious on various fronts.

The story begins on the last day of the Spivaks’ sitting shiva, a seven-day mourning period in which the coupled stays at home and receives visitors. Eyal (Shai Avivi) and Vicky Spivak (Evgenia Dodina) are still numbed by the loss of their only son, Ronnie, due to cancer. However, their postures after this painful reverse are completely divergent and their behaviors are a reflex of their state of minds. 

While Vicky suffers in silence but tries hard to go back to her normal life, Eyal is completely lost and disoriented. Despite having everything more or less organized in her head, Vicky may forget the dentist appointment, but immediately makes an effort to compensate the fault. She struggles to keep focused and on the right track, and even returns to school to teach again.
 
In turn, Eyad ignores work and persists in going back to the hospice where his son spent his last days. His intention is to retrieve his son’s colorful blanket but instead, he ends up stealing medicinal cannabis from a patient. In addition to this, he slaps his neighbor Karen (Carmit Mesilati Kaplan) and then fights her husband, Shmulik (Sharon Alexander). Yet, for our surprise, he starts hanging out with their neighbors' immature son, Zooler (Tomer Kapon), a sushi delivery guy who pretends to play an imaginary guitar and helps him rolling a joint for a first stoned experience. His wife’s facial expression shows disapproval of his conduct, but she kind of tolerates this weird phase he’s going through.

And that's how miserable and vulnerable they feel in their mourning process, desperately finding a cure for the endless pain in their souls.

Lots of zany scenes engendered by Polonsky carry a wry humor, at the same time that pushes the viewer to this permanent state of expectation. Thereby, you may expect several oddball situations that keep coming out without previous notice.

The rock music soundtrack is great and serves as a good pretext for Zooler to exteriorize tension with an indefatigable dance moment.
 
Avivi and Dodina don't let a drop of emotion behind during their memorable performances, regardless how much ridiculous their actions may look. In turn, Kapon conveys a pretty funny stupidity that insults and entertains.

Eschewing a particularly strong climax, “Two Weeks and a Day” develops with confidence toward a conclusion that brims with hope, resignation, and finally acceptance.

A Borrowed Identity (2014)

A Borrowed Identity (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Eran Riklis
Country: Israel / other

Movie Review: In Eran Riklis’ new drama, “A Borrowed Identity”, the unruly Israeli-Arab coexistence remains as a topic, but this time slightly different since the story focuses on a Palestinian-Israeli boy who tries to impose himself against discrimination. The script was co-written by Mr. Riklis, who delighted me in the past with titles like “The Syrian Bride” and “Lemon Tree”, and Sayed Kashua, the author of the novel on which the movie was based upon. The story starts in 1982 in Tira, Israel, where the young Eyad, a very intelligent and perspicacious kid, proceeds to another climbing of the street utility post that holds a TV antenna on its top. His father, Salah (the very known Ali Suliman), who’s equally very smart but was relegated to be a fruit picker when he decided to involve himself in politics, tries impatiently to tune the Arab channel on his old TV. He’s a revolted man who’s not afraid to demonstrate and express his convictions, often called terrorist by the Israeli locals, and whose dream is to send his son to the best college in Jerusalem. Meanwhile, Eyad, now totally recovered after falling from the utility post, feels abashed at school when he has to refer his father’s profession - in his juvenile innocence, he rather insists that Salah is a terrorist, a statement that conducts to a strict punishment inflicted by the school’s principal. The story then shifts to 1988, time when the grown-up Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) is accepted at the college. Once there, besides being a victim of stupid provocations and having accent problems in speaking Hebrew, he falls in love with the beautiful Naomi (Daniel Kitsis) and finds real friendship when he joins a college’s volunteer program and meets Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), a youngster suffering from muscular dystrophy. As the years pass by, Eyad faces some challenges such as how to live the ‘prohibited love’ with Naomi and how to cope with the deterioration of his best friend’s health condition. Related to this particular last topic, he finds the right solution to the injustice he was being subjected and steals his friend’s identity in a desperate attempt to have the same perks given to the Israelis. Both fanaticism and generosity are detected on the Israeli and Arab sides, and the director never assumes extreme postures. Mr. Riklis’ unnerving filmmaking style didn't smother the several critical points that are brought up about the conflict, turning the film into a bittersweet experience that leads to a variety of distinct feelings and sensations like sadness, loss, compassion, and liberation.

Zero Motivation (2014)

Zero Motivation (2014) - Movie Review
Directed by: Talya Lavie
Country: Israel

Movie Review: In “Zero Motivation”, the newcomer director, Talya Lavie, sneers at a female Israeli military unit stationed in a remote base where the boredom is high and the motivation is low. She wrote the story based on her own experiences serving in the Israeli Defense Forces. This resourceful comedy is divided into three distinct chapters, alternating the main protagonists among the small group of women. In the first one, Daffi (Nelly Tagar) can’t wait to be transferred to Tel Aviv, and for that to take effect, she brings in a new girl, Tehila (Yonit Tobi), who she believes to be her substitute. However, Tehila is nothing more than a civilian whose true motives for being there lead her to a tragic suicide. In the meantime, Zohar (Dana Ivgy), the laziest soldier ever, is obsessed with the computer game ‘Mine Sweeper’, which she’s a world record holder. This is not her single obsession since the idea of losing virginity doesn't get out of her head. After the unanticipated suicide, Rama (Shani Klein), the corpulent commander of the female unit sees her chances of being promoted reduced. The next chapter points the way to the weird Irena (Tamara Klingon), originally from Russia, who thinks she’s possessed by the ghost of Tehila and urges Zohar to find a man as soon as possible. The latter’s adventure with a recently arrived soldier didn’t go so well and Zohar returns obsessively to her PC games while tries to leave her mark in the army by shredding all the paper in the office. In the last chapter, the stern Rama is discharged to civilian life, while Daffi is promoted to commander. She gets into a fight with the disobedient Zohar, and both end up in prison. In the end, friendship triumphs after an agitated climax. A humorous atmosphere is permanently present in Ms. Lavie’s refreshing approach while a few moments of weirdness appear here and there. Even the toughest situations seem light, which in the case, is not necessarily unfavorably. “Zero Motivation”, a well-contextualized feel-good comedy with minor faults, actually offers lots of motivation to the viewers, and the perfect casting was the key factor for that achievement.

The Congress (2013)

The Congress (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Ari Folman
Country: Israel / others

Movie Review: Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman (“Waltz with Bashir”) blends drama, sci-fi, and animation in “The Congress”, an adaptation of the novel ‘The Futurological Congress’ by Stanislaw Lem (“Solaris”). In this story of dual worlds, Robin Wright plays herself as an aging actress who deals with several difficulties in her professional career but still believes in her performing capacities. She is reluctant to accept being part of a new technological program set up by Miramount Studios, represented by the ambitious Jeff Green (Danny Huston), that offers her the last performance of her life -  a digitally scanning to obtain her image rights for a computer-character. Dedicated to her son Aaron, who needs medical attention, Robin will be convinced by Al (Harvey Keitel), her agent and the father of her children, to embark in the program. Twenty years later she was turned into the star of a widespread TV show called ‘Rebel Robot Robin – Street Fighter, and decides to enter in the animated world of showbiz created by Miramount. But inhabiting an artificial world of dreams and wanna-be’s, doesn’t bring the peace she needs since her main concern is not knowing about her son, left to the cares of his specialist, Dr. Barker (Paul Giamatti). Conceptually challenging and gorgeously designed, “The Congress” is both a complex and sophisticated creation that worked out much better than “The Zero Theorem” or the lame “Transcendence”. Michal Englert’s cinematography was significant, while the Israel-based production company Bridgit Folman Films Gang was responsible for the animation. Concerning the great cast, definitely no computer-characters are needed for them.

Bethlehem (2013)

Bethlehem (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Yuval Adler
Country: Israel

Movie Review: Israeli Yuval Adler has an auspicious debut on direction and screenwriting with “Bathlehem”, a thriller with dramatic tones centered on Israeli-Palestinian war. The story is centered on disoriented teen Palestinian Sanfur, whose fugitive brother, Ibrahim, is the Al-aqsa brigade leader of Bathlehem who became a symbol of Palestinian resistance after killing 30 Israelis. Unlike his brother, Sanfur is seen as a useless fighter by his father who only praises Ibrahim, and that fact is on the base of why he agreed to collaborate with Razi, an Israeli secret agent who trusts him like his own son. When Ibrahim is killed by an ambush organized by Razi, everything changes, not only in their relationship but also inside the Palestinian forces whose intern crisis triggers an intimidating conflict among the Palestinian Authority, brigades Al-aqsa and Hamas. Needless to say that Sanfur, moving dangerously on both sides of the fence, will be confronted with a final decision after has been detected as an informer – or he escapes to Israel, or he kills his agent friend to save his honor and become a martyr. Tension is everywhere and is delivered at a regular pace, while betrayals and impasses are a constant throughout the film, mirroring the huge complexity of a devastating conflict. In this aspect, we can compare it with Hany Abu-Assad’s “Omar”, which I found more involving and thrilling. In turn, “Bethlehem” is more raw and direct, and not less disturbing in its conclusions. It won six prizes from Israeli Academy, including best film, director, and screenplay.

Big Bad Wolves (2013)

Big Bad Wolves (2013) - Movie Review
Directed by: Aharon Keshales, Navot Papushado
Country: Israel

Movie Review: Violent Israeli thriller “Big Bad Wolves” deals with revenge and dared to make fun of a grim story that comes in consequence of the kidnap, rape, and posterior decapitation of a little girl, by a pedophile. The sophomore feature from filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, does nothing more than torturing us along the way with a clumsy revenge plan perpetrated by Gidi, the victim's father, along with Miki, a vigilante cop who had been dismissed from the case. The supposed author of the crimes, a teacher called Dror, nothing could have done against the furious avengers, receiving (almost) the same treatment as his victims. Later, Gidi’s father, in his swaggering posture, will also give his contribution by inflicting pain on the hostage. Considering the sad killing in question, the characters never seemed sincere or real, presenting silly behaviors that were just meant to shock or surprise. Unfortunately this strategy didn’t work, mostly due to a plot that never showed any stroke of genius or cleverness to make me feel connected. I wonder how this film would have been if directed by Tarantino, who praised the film to the point of considering it one of the year’s best. The truth is that aside the strong cinematography by Giora Bejach (“Lebanon”) and the music of Frank Ilfman, both awarded by Israeli academy, “Big Bad Wolves” didn’t offer sufficient arguments to convince, being a whimsical and unnecessary film that runs beyond what it should.

Zaytoun (2012)

Zaytoun (2012)
Directed by: Eran Riklis
Country: Israel / UK

Review: “Zaytoun” is set in Beirut, Lebanon, and depicts an improbable cooperation and friendship between Fahed, a12 year-old Palestinian refugee who becomes an orphan, and Yoni, a sensitive Israeli pilot whose plane was shot down. The initial mistrust between them will change after they decide to help each other in order to cross the border to return to their homes. Eran Riklin, who directed two emblematic and interesting films about the Arab-Israeli conflict, “The Syrian Bride” and “The Lemon Tree”, was able to show Fahed’s loss of innocence and thirst for revenge, although as a whole this sentimental story did not seem so credible. Some scenes and conversations were just meant to push out the viewers' emotions, being sometimes manipulative and unconvincing. The plot, written by debutant Nader Rizq, didn’t catch me, while Rikli’s direction and the acting by Stephen Dorff and the young Abdallah El Akal, were competent. Among pale colors and destroyed landscapes, “Zaytoun” gives a completely different perspective of the conflict, gathering all the conditions to affect us in a positive way, but its urge in sensitize our hearts led to a sensation of falseness.

Fill The Void (2012)

Fill The Void (2012)
Directed by: Rama Burshtein
Country: Israel

Review: “Fill The Void” takes a deep look into an orthodox Hasidic community in Israel. The film portrays their culture with all its creeds, festivities, and rituals, but the central theme here is marriage and how the family poses a huge influence on young women’s decisions on this matter. The story’s protagonist is Shira (Hadas Yaron), an 18 year-old young woman who is happy to be engaged with a successful man of her age. When her older sister dies during childbirth, her mother tries to persuade her to marry her brother-in-law. This peculiar situation was meant just to keep the newborn close to the family. Beautifully shot by newcomer Rema Burshtein, whose credibility is above suspicion since she belongs to an orthodox Jewish community, “Fill The Void” embraces the matter with extreme sensibility and in a non-intrusive way, putting a whirl of complex emotions in each character. Each time Shira changes her mind, we can feel the weight of her decision and the pressure that surrounds her. The persistent religious chants helped to reinforce this sense of oppressiveness and anguish. Burshtein’s smart vision doesn’t hide some problems in terms of pace and unchanged mood throughout the film, although it seems clear that restrained tension was an option and not a limitation. The brilliant performance by Hadas Yaron was awarded in Venice and Israel.

5 Broken Cameras (2011)

5 Broken Cameras (2011)
Directed by: Emad Burnat / Guy Davidi
Country: Palestine / Israel / others

Review: “5 Broken Cameras” is a gripping documentary that depicts life in Bil’in, a West Bank village in constant turmoil due to Israeli occupations. With a sad voice, Emad starts to explain the different phases of his life; first with the birth of his children and then with the cameras he used to film the pacific demonstrations along five years. Every camera served during a determined period of time, witnessing shootings, beatings, killings and arrests. One aspect that messed with my feelings was to see Emad’s four-year-old son, watching all that violence as if it was a normal thing. "5 Broken Cameras" is a very personal work, covering the daily struggle of the villagers against illicit settlements, frequent abuse of power and sudden changes in law to address Israeli interests. Polemics aside, we must say that Emad made a lot of 'damage' on Israeli side with his little cameras. 

The Exchange (2011)

The Exchange (2011)
Directed by: Eran Kolirin
Country: Israel

Review: After the much appreciated “The Band’s Visit” (2007), Eran Kolirin embarks in a completely different reality. “The Exchange” is an intriguing story about a man’s obsession, which emerged unexpectedly one day when he had to break his routine, returning home from work in the middle of the afternoon. Some voyeurism, weird behaviors and possessive attitudes toward his wife, reinforced the idea of an insecure, suspicious and troubled man, who will find in a neighbor the perfect companion. Rotem Keinan’s performance was convincing, showing the interior struggle of someone who's willing to break the “rules”. The main issue with this film was that everything seemed so intriguing that I got used to it after a while, making me lose some sensibility for certain details. With a daring plot, “The Exchange” isn’t perfect but is unquestionably disconcerting.

Footnote (2011)

Directed by: Joseph Cedar
Country: Israel

Plot: Eliezer and Uriel Shkolnik are father and son as well as rival professors in Talmudic Studies. When both men learn that Eliezer will be lauded for his work, their complicated relationship reaches a new peak.
Quick comment: The fifth feature from the israeli Joseph Cedar is a well made satire about ambition and obsession in a literate jewish family. With a confident direction and great moments of nervous tension we are before an odd, subtle and precise caricature of a father and son searching for recognition.
Relevant Awards: Best screenplay at Cannes (France) and Dublin (UK) Film Fests.





The Human Resources Manager (2010)

Realizado por: Eran Riklin
País: Israel

O responsável pelos recursos humanos de uma padaria em Israel, tentando recuperar a boa imagem posta em causa por um artigo difamatório de um jornal local, parte para uma viagem à Rússia a fim de levar o corpo de uma ex-funcionária natural daquele país recentemente falecida. Ao tentar estabelecer contacto com os familiares da defunta, vai perceber que nem tudo será fácil. Ficam na retina paisagens desoladoras num filme pouco memorável. Quando tenta ser engraçado para quebrar o ritmo arrastado, não é muito bem sucedido, o que também acontece quando envereda pela via sentimental e dramática.

Lemon Tree (2008)

Realizado por: Eran Riklis
País: Israel
O filme retrata a luta de uma viúva palestiniana, que se opõe nos tribunais, à ordem dos serviços secretos israelita para cortar o seu campo de limoeiros devido a ser considerado uma ameaça à segurança do novo ministro da defesa israelita e da sua mulher, quando passaram a ser seus vizinhos. Além de tarefa extremamente difícil, uma vez que habita no território ocupado da Cisjordânia, acaba apaixonando-se pelo seu advogado, provocando o falatório na cidade. Mesmo assim, vai conseguir obter a simpatia de uma jornalista israelita e até da mulher do ministro. Apesar da excelente interpretação da actriz principal, o filme não conseguiu tocar-me emocionalmente, o que fará com que não permaneça por muito tempo na memória.

Lebanon (2009)

Realizado por: Samuel Maoz
País: Israel

Estamos na 1ª Guerra do Líbano. Um tanque de guerra israelita com 4 soldados no seu interior, é enviado para uma missão simples numa cidade libanesa.
O que parecia fácil, torna-se um pesadelo quando o tanque perde-se no caos da guerra.
Filmado quase totalmente do interior do tanque, o filme dá-nos a conhecer o desespero, medo e esperança sentidos pelos seus tripulantes.
Filme intenso e com atmosfera claustrofóbica, venceu o Leão de Ouro no Festival de Veneza.

Ajami (2009)

Realizado por: Scandar Copti e Yaron Shani
País: Israel

Ajami (comunidade religiosa em Tel Aviv onde vivem muçulmanos, judeus e cristãos) é um filme de diversas histórias de personagens que se cruzam.
Sem retratar apenas questões étnicas ou religiosas, são abordados temas como a droga, o crime organizado e a vingança.
Aqui, todas as personagens são vítimas de circunstância, onde não existem heróis ou vilões.
Filme actual e com bom argumento, contou com uma nomeação para Oscar (melhor filme estrangeiro) e venceu a "Câmara Dourada" no Festival de Cannes.