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Facing Up the Inner Conflict at The Other Israel Film Festival ‘21

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By Roger Costa

LET IT BE MORNING

After having his face smashed up by a much younger and stronger man, in response for a theft accusation, Sami, our protagonist, is curiously asked by his son the reason why he didn’t fight back. “We don’t do that. Only stupid people fight back.” he replies, calmly walking away from the unexpected situation. This subtle and timely moral lesson is one of many appearing in director Eran Kolirin’s accomplished dramatic comedy about an Arab community living among Israeli soldiers and dealing with an unusual lockdown. Sami and his family arrive at his hometown for a wedding party and are suddenly stranded by the Soldiers’ intervention and inexplicable lockdown. Unable to communicate with the outside world or even to get reasonable answers for the chaotic situation, they find opportunity to analyze their fractured marriage and relationships, attempting to reconcile and find emotional balance. Named Best Film by the Israeli Film Academy and picked as Israel’s official entry for the Oscars 2022, Kolirin scores his most accomplished work yet, an engaging and touching acid socio-political satire about the absurdity of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. (Screens 11/4.)

SKIES ABOVE HEBRON

Richly observed and involving, directors Esther Hertog and Paul King’s unflinching documentary is an important statement on human rights, following the coming of age of three Palestinian boys, as they grow up in the ancient city of Hebron. Gaining total access to their lives and their family throughout five decisive years, the film deeply exposes the horrors, humiliation and risks faced by these children, as they learn how to survive and deal with the divided culture they belong to, and how to understand the familiar faces of the enemy. A truthful and haunting experience, documenting the trauma, physical and mental obstacles taking over the harmless, it is a shocking report on those trapped by an unacceptable war. (Screens 11/6.)

200 METERS

Influenced by the best in contemporary Neo-realism, director Ameen Nayfeh’s feature debut is an electrifying and suspenseful adventure about a Palestinian man running against time to reach his son at an Israeli Hospital. Anchored by a powerful performance from Award-winning male leading actor Ali Suliman, the film paints a relevant and intriguing portrait of the conflict, introducing a clan of eccentric characters as they interact during a road trip. An aspiring singer dreaming of climbing the wall and smuggling himself into the other side, a filmmaker reporting everyone she meets along the way, extracting their perspective on the conflict, her boyfriend/translator and a mercenary driver: they all represent a key role in the conflict, as seen and experienced by the pacifier father who’s just trying to reach a safe ground. Winner of the Human Rights Jury Prize at this year’s Atlanta Jewish Film Festival, and Jordan’s official entry for the Oscars 2022 for Best International Film, it is a moving, brilliantly executed, powerfully performed and fast paced thriller about the moral, ethical and economic sacrifices families must endure to survive on the other side of the wall. (A Film Movement Release. Screens 11/11.)

AHED’S KNEE  

Winner of the Jury Prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, prolific Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s latest is an intimate, aggressively raw and authentic example of his semi-disciplined anarchist cinema, a revolutionary voice echoing a protest-like ode to the seventh art and the political effects of it. Utterly personal, yet universal, Lapid explores the existential crisis and dilemmas of a famous movie director who arrives at a deserted area to present his new film and becomes involved with a mysterious politician/librarian. As he reflects on his life and career, seen through a Soldier perspective and examining topics of generational conflicts, spirituality, art, Judaism, tradition and modernity, Lapid crafts an enigmatic, Avant-Garde infused tragic comedy about the creativity process and the open wounds left by war and authoritarian regimes. (A Kino Lorber Release. Screens 11/6.)

(The 15th Other Israel Film Festival runs November 4-11 with In-Person screenings at the JCC Manhattan and available Virtually on its digital platform. Go to www.otherisrael.org for details.)


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