"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.


Friday, May 20, 2016

Junction 48 by Udi Aloni

The prizewinning film, Junction 48, directed by Udi Aloni, is a great film of complexity and political depth, with lots of good music and talented young singers.  The film provides insight into the issues of Palestinian Israelis in the contemporary reality and is very critical of how the Palestinians of Israel are treated -- both socially and by the authorities.  

The story takes place in Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab city in central Israel, where drugs abound together with poverty.  There is resentment against the Israeli authorities, tensions between different groups of Palestinians and Bedouin, and also between the local Jewish and the local Palestinian young people.

Karim's parents perform as a musical team, but Karim's music is different -- he does Arabic rap and the lyrics are biting and critical.  He performs with his brother and some other friends.  One of his friends lives in an old shack, which they are desperately trying to save from demolition  by government bulldozers.  Another friend is involved in the sale of drugs.   Karim's girlfriend, Manar, who also sings with Karim's rap group, is being pushed by her family to get married since she lives what they consider an immodest and dishonorable lifestyle.  

This is a film about the frustrations of living in a divided society, and about the meeting point between Israelis and Palestinians within Israeli society.  Uri Klein (in his Ha'aretz review of the film this past week) calls this the collision and interaction between Israelis and Palestinians. When Karim's rap group gets a gig to perform in a Jewish rap club in Tel Aviv, there are tensions between the Jews and the Arabs.  The burly Jewish host rapper, trying to provoke Karim and his friends, is similar to the real-life provocative and extremist Israeli rapper, who goes by the name "The Shadow". 
The film is filled with irony. For example, when asked about the performance in the Jewish club, Karim responds in his witty style, "oh fine, they apologized for 1967 and also for 1948." Many other critical and sarcastic comments can be found throughout the dialogue and in the rap songs of the dynamic Palestinian rap group, which help the viewer understand the feelings and thoughts of Palestinian Israeli young people.  

The language of the film is almost completely Arabic, which itself is unique and powerful for the many audiences which will view it. It is a demonstration of cultural respect on the part of the filmmaker and is a reflection of the fact that there is heightened interest in Israel today in learning and speaking Arabic.  

Junction 48 is an important film.  It is well-written with fast pacing, and it works  successfully in a number of different genres -- there is great music, a touching love story, and much social criticism. 

Udi Aloni's previous feature film, Forgiveness (2006) also provided a strong political comment.  It was about an idealistic American Jew who comes to Israel, joins the army, and becomes emotionally traumatized after killing a child during his military service in the West Bank.  He is brought to a mental hospital at Givat Shaul that is built on the ruins of Deir Yassin (an Arab village outside of Jerusalem where hundreds of Arabs were slaughtered by Jews in 1948).  The other patients at this mental hospital are Holocaust survivors.  Strangely, a patient/survivor becomes involved in his treatment. 

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