The Arty Semite

Israeli Diversity at Tribeca Film Fest

By Simi Horwitz

  • Print
  • Share Share

The three Israeli films at this year’s Tribeca Film Festiva, which ended April 28, reflect an eclectic mix of genres, visions, and views about Israeli culture and the world at large. Two of the films deal with victimization, abuse and culpability.

Hilla Medalia

“Big Bad Wolves” starts out promisingly, with a suspenseful slow-motion opening sequence, as three youngsters play hide and seek near an abandoned cabin in the woods. The audience knows something terrible is going to happen, and indeed, the scene ends with one of the girls gone missing, though her bright red shoe is found. The single shoe is a vivid and evocative touch, hinting at the sudden violence she may have encountered.

Eventually her headless corpse is discovered. She is the most recent victim in a series of grisly murders committed by a pedophile who brutally molests young girls before beheading them. The police believe they have solid evidence against a wimpy religious studies teacher whom they were forced to release on a technicality. Played by Rotem Keinan, the would-be rapist-killer is at once pathetic and creepy.

Regrettably, the film becomes graphically violent, though comedy is thrown into the mix. Between shattering the toes of his intended prey, one of the characters enjoys a cup of soup with his father who arrives on the scene. They talk about mom.

The film’s directors, Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, whose debut film “Rabies” was Israel’s first horror flick, are clearly influenced by the Coen Brothers and Quentin Tarantino’s genre-blending aesthetic. And like their American counterparts, they’re offering social commentary. According to their own statement the film’s characters emerge from a society that is so paranoid that the victim inevitably becomes the out-of-control victimizer.

Far subtler and ultimately more thought-provoking is Jonathan Gurfinkel’s “Six Acts,” a slice-of-life teen film centering on a self-destructive 16-year-old girl who, depending on your viewpoint, just wants to be accepted, is highly sexed, and is arguably none too bright. Played with nuance by Sivan Levy, Gili is all of the above. This is a story of sexual abuse, but only in part. The boys are a repellent lot, though Gili is a willing participant, whatever her psychological makeup. It is a multi-layered performance.

Class issues are also nicely touched on in this film. Gili lives with a single mom in a small, rundown apartment, while another character, Omri, is the son of affluence, vividly reflected in his opulent, multi-level family dwelling.

“Six Acts” is refreshingly devoid of psychobabble and cant. Credit must go to screenwriter Rona Segal for her brave and politically incorrect depiction of high school kids who could exist anywhere. Most impressive, the film marks director Gurfinkel’s debut.

Hilla Medalia’s documentary “Dancing in Jaffa” stands at the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. It’s a feel good, beating the odds true story about enemies finding common ground and literally dancing together.

The film tells the story of award-winning Palestinian-born ballroom dancer Pierre Dulaine, who returns to his native city of Jaffa and transforms a community through the lives of 84 fifth graders in five schools. Jaffa is one of the few Israeli cities where Muslims, Christians and Jews manage to co-exist. Still, it is an uneasy peace with suspicion and distaste lurking beneath the surface on all sides.

Dulaine’s ambition is for the children to master ballroom dancing together and ultimately participate in a competition. Initially, he encounters resistance. The ethnic-cultural animosity is compounded by that portion of the Islamic population whose religion forbids girls and boys to have physical contact. While struggling to establish his program Dulaine is also grappling with his own origins and personal politics.

In the end, the students grow, connect and, most moving, at the actual competition Jewish and Muslim moms sit side by side, chatting away, and cheering their kids on.

Several years later the program has continued and expanded in Jaffa. (It also exists in some New York City schools.) Still, what lasting impact will it have? Perhaps it’s premature to answer that question. And, more to the point, the initiative may be worthwhile if only for the possibility it embodies.

No simple answers exist. That’s the common denominator in these three films, each portraying life in a profoundly contradictory society.

Watch the trailer for ‘Dancing in Jaffa’:


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tribeca Film Festival, Six Acts, Simi Horwitz, Rona Segal, Rabies, Navot Papushado, Jonathan Gurfinkel, Hilla Medalia, Film, Dancing in Jaffa, Big Bad Wolves, Aharon Keshales

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • The eggplant is beloved in Israel. So why do Americans keep giving it a bad rap? With this new recipe, Vered Guttman sets out to defend the honor of her favorite vegetable.
  • “KlezKamp has always been a crazy quilt of gay and straight, religious and nonreligious, Jewish and gentile.” Why is the klezmer festival shutting down now?
  • “You can plagiarize the Bible, can’t you?” Jill Sobule says when asked how she went about writing the lyrics for a new 'Yentl' adaptation. “A couple of the songs I completely stole." Share this with the theater-lovers in your life!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.