Similar to the film's disturbing image of the ripped and worn Israeli flag, the hero of Janem Janem (2006), an Israeli high school teacher of history and Zionism, is completely worn out, wondering what it's all about, asking himself what he is fighting for.
Similar to his earlier film, Marriage of Convenience, which explored issues of distrust between Arabs and Jews, veteran filmmaker Haim Bouzaglo has created a new film about the terrible treatment of migrant workers within Israeli society. In both films, the main character's name is Eldi.
The film opens with a hard-hitting beginning – two soldiers are listening to the radio at an army outpost and suddenly they are under fire. One soldier gets killed, the other begins shooting back wildly. Eldi, who has seen some difficult army service, is a 40 year-old teacher who falls into a crisis of meaning and identity. Fed up with everything, he decides to stop teaching -- he calls it a "strike" – and leaves his wife to go on a journey. At the last minute, he decides that he can't get on the plane and he gets back on line to re-enter the country, getting mixed into a group of Romanian and Turkish workers entering Israel, each with his own personal dream.
In a compelling way, the film shows the humanity and camaraderie between the workers --seen in direct contrast to the harsh reality of life in Israel which catches up with them at every turn. There are terrible living conditions, humiliations, regular abuse of the foreign women, pressured work on a construction site and police round-ups.
This is not an easy film. It is hard-hitting and critical. What has happened to the Zionism of the high school teacher? Where is the Israel of our dreams? Instead the Israeli flag, flying in the breeze, is ripped and worn.
The film was produced in 2006, as the violence of the second intifada was just drawing to an end. Certainly in the mind of the Israeli film-going public at that time was the fact that terrorist bombings occurred in the area of south Tel Aviv where these migrant workers were living, linking forever the destiny of these people to the destiny of the entire country.
Janem Janem is available from Dragoman Films