(Sof Shavua B’Tel Aviv)
Film Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Terrorist and Jew as Starcrossed Lovers in Tel Aviv’s Answer to Romeo and Juliet
Tarek (Shredi Jabarin) is a celebrated star on a Palestinian soccer team. But because his father has brought disgrace upon the family by collaborating with the Israelis, the young man has reluctantly decided to serve as a suicide bomber to show their neighbor-haters in Nazarene that everything is copacetic, at least in terms of being bona fide, radical Muslims.
So, after having enough plastic explosives strapped to his chest to blow himself and all the shoppers at an outdoor market to smithereens, he sets out for the city of Tel Aviv. En route, he is reminded by his unconvinced chauffeur, Abed (Jony Arbid), that the vest will detonate, if he tries to remove it. Furthermore, he is informed that his parents will be killed if the mission is aborted. And just in case he gets cold feet, Abed even has a cell phone which can set off the device via remote control.
After bidding Abed adieu, Tarek finds a plaza packed with Jews, but only ends up frustrated when he squeezes the trigger and nothing happens. Following several attempts, he ventures to a repair shop where he is befriended by Katz (Shlomo Vishinsky), its cantankerous, but soft-hearted proprietor. Katz, obviously unaware of the planned use for the malfunctioning switch, offers to order the part, and tells Tarek to come back in a couple days.
To kill time before his date with destiny and 77 virgins, the walking IED saunters over to the kiosk of Keren (Hili Yalon), a 17 year-old rebel who’s been disowned by her Hassidic family. She’s being shunned for refusing to dress modestly, wear a wig and generally abide by the dictates of their orthodox traditions.
By coincidence, a couple of creepy thugs, Avinoam (Amir Yerushalmi) and Shlomi (Michael Moshonov), show up at the shop simultaneously to pressure her to accompany them to a synagogue for a meeting with her parents. But despite having not made any friends or much money since running away, Keren refuses. And when the toughs try to twist her arm, Tarek intervenes physically like a knight in shining armor. The goons retreat with their tails between their legs, leaving Keren smitten with Tarek and eager to get better acquainted.
As they start spending some quality time together, he hides the truth about why he’s in town. Sparks fly, and a lazy bike ride through the countryside leads to the proverbial long walk along the shore at sunset. However, just when romance is on the verge of blossoming, Tarek is reminded by increasingly urgent phone calls from Abed that he’s there to wreak havoc not to make whoopee.
Will these star-crossed lovers ditch their respective repressive religions and intolerant associates to prove to the world that Jews and Palestinians are capable of not merely coexisting but of copulating as well? This is the question which For My Father urgently attempts to address with the specter of an imminent blast always hanging over our shamelessly-flirtatious protagonists’ heads.
Kudos to director Drod Zahavi for managing to present what undoubtedly reads like a patently preposterous plotline in a plausible fashion. A melodramatic morality play which sends the sobering message that suicide bombing does not pay, especially when you could just as easily seduce as splatter the sexy object of your detonation.
Very Good (3 stars)
In Hebrew and Arabic with subtitles.
Running time: 100 Minutes
Distributor: Film Movement
Thursday, January 28, 2010
(Sof Shavua B’Tel Aviv)