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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Jaffa (2009)

This is Romeo and Juliet, Israeli-style, with a great script and cast, and as is usual in a Film Movement film, spectacular cinematography.
Here's the story. Mali's father Reuven owns a garage in Jaffa, the 'old town' south of Tel Aviv that is still a cross-cultural mix of Arabs and Jews. But the Jews tend to the the employers and the Arabs the employees, as is the case with Reuven and Hassan, and then Hassan's son, Toufik. Reuvin treats father and son respectfully, but there is that relationship, none-the-less. Reuvin's son Meir is another story--he is work avoidant, quick to blame others when his work is not done, and racist. He treats the Arabs working in his father's garage like second class citizens.
Why is this a problem--well, first, Meir's sister Mali is in love with Toufik, and this has been going on for quite some time. They have kept their relationship a secret up til now, but Mali is pregnant and they plan to leave Israel to marry. All is going along according to this doomed plan until Meir and Toufik get into a fight that Meir started, but Toufik ends by decking Meir, and inadvertantly killing him.
There is nothing like untimely death to change a mediocre man into a martyr, and Meir's family wastes no time doing so. Mali is caught in the middle, and largely chooses family over love, but not quite. Her unhappiness is palpable throughout the back end of the movie, and it ends on a bittersweet note.
The movie is tragic, the story of these two lovers left to us as a paradigm for how untenable easy solutions are in Israel today.

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