"World Cinema: Israel"

My book, "World Cinema: Israel" (originally published in 1996) is available from Amazon on "Kindle", with an in-depth chapter comparing and analyzing internationally acclaimed Israeli films up to 2010.

Want to see some of the best films of recent years? Just scroll down to "best films" to find listings of my recommendations.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

"James' Journey to Jerusalem" directed by Ra'anan Alexandrowicz in 2003

A particularly compelling satire of contemporary Israeli society, James Journey to Jerusalem tells of a Christian pilgrim from Nigeria who is forced to work as a migrant worker and quickly learns the ins and outs of getting along.

At a talk at Beit Avi Chai (http://www.bac.org.il/) in Jerusalem, June 19, 2008, the filmmaker spoke eloquently about the subject matter of his film. "This is not a film about migrant workers per se. Rather, this is a film about money and materialism and what it has done to us. James is the Zionist dream and we can see what has become of him/it as the result of money. "

Alexandrowicz talked about the Sallah character (Aryeh Elias) who has told his children not to be a "friar" a "sucker" or someone of whom others take advantage, and both his real son, Shimi, and his adopted son, James, tell him, we were only doing what you told us to do! They have become so tough because they wouldn't let anyone think that they were suckers. Alexandrowicz also said that the State of Israel itself, after hundreds of years of Jewish persecution, is a statement that the Jews are not to be taken advantage of any longer.

In talking about the parallel to the Sallah figure (from the classic film Sallah, directed by Ephraim Kishon), who has been corrupted by money, he showed a clip from Sallah, in which Sallah is trying desperately to get a shikun (an apartment in a housing project) for his family, and he tells his son that we have been denied an apartment, "it's because we're newcomers", and he says that when he's in charge, he's going to treat the new immigrants the way he's been treated. That's what everyone does, they treat the newcomers badly, in the case of James, those who were once new immigrants themselves, treat the migrant workers badly.

At the end of the film, as James is arrested and sent off to prison in Jerusalem, he begs the police to stop the car and let him take a picture. What is the view in the background? The shikunim (housing projects) of Kiryat Yovel – a reference back to the shikunim of Sallah's dreams.


SFK said...

"That's what everyone does; they treat the newcomers badly" -- it's always so poignant to realize how Israel is becoming a state like all others rather than an example state like so many had hoped it would be. I guess it shows that we are normal. But really it is so interesting to see these trends reflected in film, the mirror image of society. Keep these comments coming! A blog just like this one is exactly what the internet was missing! SFK.

Unknown said...

Was James sent to jail for realestate fraud?