OIFF19 REVIEW: סיבת המוות [Cause of Death] [2019]

I can’t stop thinking about it. Director Ramy A Katz leaves three text cards at the end of his Cause of Death to share responses to the film that were supplied by the Israeli police department, Ministry of Health, and the medical examiner of Officer Salim Barakat’s body upon his death at the scene of a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2002. Each statement possesses one commonality that doesn’t make sense when read after watching Salim’s brother Jamal’s unofficial investigation into what happened a decade later. It’s…

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REVIEW: האופה-מברלין [Der Kuchenmacher] [The Cakemaker] [2017]

I’m not alone. A romantic drama wielding nationality, sexuality, and religion as crucial dramatic themes without giving into their rigidity atop a backdrop of delicious baked goods sounds more than ambitious—it sounds foolhardy. But writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer set out and accomplished exactly that with his acclaimed Der Kuchenmacher [The Cakemaker]. He travels between a quaint Berlin bakery to a strictly kosher Jerusalem neighborhood atop the shoulders of a man lost in love and feeling happier than his wildest dreams. Thomas (Tim Kalkhof) didn’t crave family or the desire for…

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REVIEW: ישמח חתני [Ismach Hatani] [The Women’s Balcony] [2016]

“Evil decrees upon evil decrees with evil decrees of evil” There’s more to ישמח חתני [Ismach Hatani] [The Women’s Balcony] than the American marketing machine has thus far presented. Billed as a feel good comedy of communal spirit—and correctly so—there are much weightier issues at play. This isn’t merely a farcical war between a synagogue’s female congregation and a new rabbi placing their demands behind his own. It’s also a keenly intuitive account of fundamentalist extremism in a forum we aren’t used to seeing. Too often Hollywood takes this concept…

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TIFF16 REVIEW: טהורה לעד [Tehora la’ad] [Forever Pure] [2016]

“My heart will always stay yellow and black” Just when you think it can’t get worse—that the vocal, racist minority spewing bile will be extinguished in a show of tide-turning empathy—everything is literally engulfed in flames as a city watches it burn to cheers from a cesspool of hate. This is the 2012-2013 season for Beitar Jerusalem FC in the Israeli Premier League. A soccer team beloved by enough fans to make them a political target for President Reuven Rivlin and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the reason their owner at…

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TIFF15 REVIEW: Yaldey Mafteah [Latchkey Kids] [2015]

“Don’t ruin this for me” Love takes many forms and sometimes they can be confusing when you’ve never experienced a divide. For Gur (Yoav Rotman) and Daniel (Gaia Shalita Katz), growing up with absentee parents and for all intents and purposes raising each other has cultivated a deeply rooted bond. They’ve promised to never leave the other alone and they mean it. But while Daniel has matured to the point of understanding that loyalty stems from a familial place, Gur still cannot separate a sense of ownership in her love.…

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TIFF15 REVIEW: Laila Acharon [One Last Night] [2015]

“I wish we could stay like this forever” Despite many aging punk rockers going strong—or maybe they’re the punk poppers—the punk-rock game is for the young. It’s easy to be anti-establishment and anarchist when life has yet to drag you into its tractor beam of responsibility. To party all night and not worry about the consequences an evening in jail brings isn’t something you can sustain into your late-twenties when life replaces fun. Noa (Michal Korman) understands this because she finds herself at a crossroads between following love for love’s…

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REVIEW: אפס ביחסי אנוש [Zero Motivation] [2014]

“Paper Shredding NCO is what you make it” When thinking about the Israeli army, images of badass Mossad agents covertly wreaking havoc across the world crop up. It’s a hyperbolic generalization, but that’s kind of the flavor our media delivers being that the country is such a strong defensive ally of the US. We’re to believe in their power. The problem with this, however, comes from the fact every citizen eighteen and older is conscripted to a mandatory two-year stint. No country can have a law like that and expect…

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