"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.


Saturday, November 12, 2016

A New Comedy based on Halfon Hill Doesn't Answer

Halfon Hill Doesn’t Answer (1976), directed by Assi Dayan, was a popular comedy about the Israeli military that became a cult film, especially with young Israeli audiences that learned to recite by heart entire comic sequences of the script.  The film showcases the Gashash comedy trio – Yisrael (Poli) Poliakov, Shaike Levi and Gavri Banai – and is a parody of the absurdities of Israeli military life, which takes place along the Egyptian border.  

Today, 40 years later, along comes a new comedy, based on Halfon HillThe Last Band in Lebanon, directed by Ben Bachar and Itzik Kricheli, also features a trio of comedians and is also about the Israeli military, but this one takes place during the final days of the War in Lebanon.  The film stars Ofer Hayoun, Ori Lazerovich, and Ofer Shechter. 

It’s the last day of the war and as all the Israeli troops withdraw, our three heroes awaken to discover that they’ve been left behind.  They are reserve soldiers, members of a rock band who were brought in to entertain the troops on their last night.   In fact, we soon learn that they were actually brought to this base as a cover for an evil and corrupt officer and his two side-kicks to enable them to steal a huge amount of hashish from the local South Lebanese Christian militia (Tzadal).
This is the humorous story of how these three abandoned soldier-musicians win the day!  Portrayed as bumbling yet loveable heroes, stumbling around South Lebanon in their underwear, they eventually discover a mosque where they find the missing hashish.  Surprisingly, they succeed in stealing back the hashish and returning it to its original owners -- the Christian militia -- who desperately need it to pay protection money to Hizbollah. It is interesting to note that the extremely moral and sympathetic leader of the Christian militia is played by the Palestinian Israeli actor, Salim Dau. 

Although it is a bit over-the-top, this film is hilarious and enjoyable.  It has great pacing, fun music, an absurd story-line and dependent on your point of view, offers a cynical or optimistic ending.  The film pokes fun at everyone and everything and there are heavily stereotyped characters in every group – the Jewish band, the Israeli military police and army officers especially the corrupt officer and his two idiotic side-kicks, the South Lebanonese army, and of course the Hizbollah.  This is a film for young adult audiences, with lots of laughs and spiced with a fair amount of cynicism. 

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