"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.


Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Wonders -- A new film by Avi Nesher

The new Avi Nesher film, Wonders, is now playing in movie theaters in Israel.  The film is scripted jointly by Nesher and Sha'anan Streett (lead singer of the Israeli internationally renowned hip-hop group, HaDag Nachash). 

It is interesting that Israeli society has an ambivalent relationship vis-a-vis the ultra-orthodox world.  On the one hand, we heavily critique this world because we resent the fact that the young men don't make the sacrifices that other young men make by serving in the Israeli army.  On the other hand, we are fascinated by this world which is seen as strangely exotic and quite compelling.  In his new film, Avi Nesher is exploring the appeal of certain facets of this world -- its mystical and spiritual elements.

This is not Nesher's first cinematic portrayal of this world -- his film Secrets (2007) was a film of complexity about ultra-orthodox young women, which dealt with love, forgiveness, life and death and superstition.   In this new film, Wonders, he again looks at the world of superstition and offers a thriller about a rabbi who works wonders and foretells the future.  This is quite an achievement as Nesher  leaves behind the sentimentality of his previous films and enters a world that combines the linear story of a thriller with the abstract or spiritual. 

The wonderfully complex story revolves around a young, secular man named Arnav ("rabbit"), a barman who is also a graffiti artist, living in Musrara, an old Jerusalem neighborhood of twisting alleyways, quaint homes, and abandoned buildings.  Arnav, who is a naive and lovable character, discovers that a rabbi with special powers is being held prisoner in an abandoned building right across the way from his apartment.  A private detective comes along who wants to use Arnav's apartment as a stakeout and he recruits Arnav to work with him.  There are wonderful twists and turns as the plot unfolds -- who has kidnapped the rabbi?  who has hired the detective?  why is the rabbi so afraid of his kidnappers?  who stole the hard drive and why? will the young waitress find what she's desperately looking for? and what does the rabbi's sister-in-law have to do with all this? 

The film is more than a thriller -- it is also a bit of a romance, a bit of a comedy, and wonderfully touching in some ways.   As Arnav's graffiti characters become animated and come to life, comedy and whimsy are added to the story. 

Filmmaker Avi Nesher has directed films both in Israel and in the United States.  His early films made a name for him in Israel -- Sing Your Heart Out (1978), a story about the life in the Army Entertainment Troupe, and Dizengoff 99 (1979), which was considered controversial at the time due to the permissive lifestyle portrayed.  Following these films, Nesher began working in Hollywood as a scriptwriter and then moved over to directing with films such as Time Bomb (1989), Automatic (1994), Mercenary (1996), Taxman (1999), and Ritual (2001).  After his return to Israel in recent years, he has made four wonderfully quirky and complex hit films: Turn Left at the End of the World (2004), Secrets (2007), Matchmaker (2010), and his latest, Wonders (2013).

In the U.S., Wonders is available from Israeli Films

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