Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Israel Film Center Festival Spotlight: Saving Neta

I’m pleased to be covering the 6th Annual Israel Film Center Festival at the Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, which runs June 5th-12th.

Saving Neta
Directed by Nir Bergman
Screening June 6th at 6pm

Even the most gregarious people have different groups of friends and family in their lives who may only come into contact for milestone occasions, and as the years go on, who makes up those groups and what the groups are can change in a big way. An individual is not defined by the people who surround them, but their interactions can shape who they are and how they dialogue with the world. Someone who is far from social and forms only intimate relationships with few people may have just as much of an impact on others as they have on them.

Neta (Benny Avni) is a man who keeps mostly to himself. Over the course of a year, he shares moments with four different women. He argues that he cannot return for reserve military duty as an army commander, Dalia (Rotem Abuhab), has difficulty focusing on his situation due to her own problems at home. He stops to fix the shoe of a musician, Ruti (Naama Arlaky), struggling with important family decisions. He observes the dissolution of the marriage of Miri (Irit Kaplan) in front of her family while on a picnic. And he tries to help when his neighbor dies and her long-absent older daughter Sharona (Neta Riskin) proves unable to comfort her mentally-challenged sister Dan-Dan (Nuria Dina Lozinsky).

None of these stories are objectively about Neta, and instead he serves as a background player in most, appearing on screen just enough to inform conversations that others have. He lives a simple, unremarkable life, and his disheveled appearance matches his reserved nature. He doesn’t seek out communication, and contributes minimally to those situations in which he finds himself forced to be extroverted. The film’s title references these women’s collective roles in bringing him back to life, though it is just as match a spotlight of strong women dealing with difficult circumstances and trying to get through them the only way that they know how.

There are a handful of great performances in this film, and the six actors named above share pretty much equal screen time. Abuhab, Arlaky, Kaplan, and Riskin all prove to be the most memorable in each of their vignettes, making their characters feel vital and central despite their limited appearances and tangential framing to Neta’s contribution to their lives. While there might be more to explore for each of these women, the way in which this film is structured does them all justice, using Neta as a connector even though they are, collectively, the more worthwhile focus.


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