"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.


Monday, June 25, 2012

The World is Funny by Shemi Zarhin

Screenwriter and director Shemi Zarhin is known for his award-winning films Passover Fever (1995), Dangerous Acts (1998), Monsieur Shlomi (2003) and Aviva My Love (2006).  His latest film, The World is Funny, opened this week in Israeli movie theaters.  All of his films can be characterized as having a complex script, authentic and well-delineated quirky characters, intelligent grappling with issues of gender, and superb directing.  Two of these films, Aviva My Love and Passover Fever have previously been reviewed on this blog.  Aviva My Love and The World is Funny, both take place in Zarhin's hometown, Tiberias.  

Born in 1961, Zarhin studied journalism and public relations and then received a BA (1986) from Tel Aviv University in the Dept. of Film and TV. He taught filmmaking at Tel Aviv University (1989-1994) and at the Sam Spiegel Film and TV School in Jerusalem (1990-1999).  In addition to directing, he is a novelist and an accomplished screenwriter, having written the screenplays for his own films and for others (including co-scriptwriter of one of my favorites -- Ayelet Menahemi's Noodle 2007). 

In his new film, The World is Funny, he uses a type of narrator or story-teller.  She is a muse who goes from house to house, toting her mop and broom, learning people's stories which she uses for her material as a participant in a writing workshop, taking place at the Tiberias library.  The participants in the workshop, a wonderful array of diverse characters, make up the background chorus, like in a Greek tragedy, relating  modern-day fables. This background is provided for the tragic stories of the three main characters -- Yardena is a bereaved mother, having lost her daughter in the army;  Miron has lost his wife in a terrible car  accident in which his older son was badly hurt;  Golan is desperately in love with a woman dying of cancer.  These three people, who have suffered terrible tragedies,  are siblings, whose stories intertwine as the film develops. 

Golan is crazy about the Gashash and seeks out Shaike (from the Gashash) to come and entertain his dying sweetheart. Shaike actually appears in a number of scenes and sings on stage at the conclusion of the film -- singing Naomi Shemer's Lu Yehi, backed up by a children's chorus , giving the otherwise old-fashioned song more of a hip and upbeat melody.

Notwithstanding the vulgarity, this is a quirky film about the fine line between tragedy and comedy, about whether stories reflect reality or reality is just a story being told, about bereavement and family relationships,  about living in the past and not being able to cope with the present, about living in the world of fiction when reality is too difficult to bear.

Contact info: talia@piefilms.co.il or osnat.h.k.@gmail.com

1 comment:

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