Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sun Jul 21, 2019 8:19 pm 
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SAMEH ZOABI: TEL AVIV ON FIRE (2018) CAPSULE - SAN FRANCISCO JEWISH FILM FESTIVAL

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KAIS NASHIF AND YANIF BITON IN TEL AVIV ON FIRE

Israeli and Arab meet over a soap opera

The comedy follows Salam (Kais Nashif of Hany Abou-Assad's tense 2005 thriller Paradise Now), a scrawny Palestinian loser who gets successful as writer for a 1967-set Palestinian TV soap with a female spy, a terrorist, and an Israeli general when an unlikely alliance develops between him and an Israeli checkpoint officer (Yanif Biton) who wants to manipulate the action to please his wife: the show is a hit with Israeli as well as Arab audiences. The film plays with writers constantly changing endings and adding far-fetched twists, and is as silly as the soap it encompasses. But it takes us to a fanciful, less grim occupied land where Arabs and Jews mix in the name of silly melodrama. Alas, if Jay Weissberg's Variety review is right, for this film, "Israeli money means Arab play is impossible." As is shown in the film, fantasies of Israeli-Palestinian reconciliation are just that. I came to like the loose-limbed style of Kais Nashif and the way the film feels as thrown-together as the soap it depicts. Director Sameh Zoabi is from a tiny Palestinian town but studied at Colombia and teaches at NYU.

Tel Aviv on Fire, 100 mins., debuted in the Orizzonti section at Venice Sept. 2, 2018 (Best Actor for Kais Nashif) and played at many international film festivals, now in Jewish film festivals, including SFJFF for this review. A limited US release starts July 26, 2019. Now showing at Quad Cinema, Landmark at 57 and the Beekman Theater in NYC. Coming to SF Bay Area: Aug. 9 following at Landmark’s Clay Theatre. San Francisco and Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas, Berkeley. Metascore 70%.

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