Sunday, December 13, 2020

Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Africa

I’ve had the privilege of screening a number of selections from the Israel Film Festival, which serves as a showcase for the best Israeli films each year. The 34rd Israel Film Festival takes place online this year from December 13th-27th, 2020.

Directed by Oren Gerner
Ticket Information

Getting older involves many things, and one part of that is acknowledging that change has happened and everything isn’t the same as it used to be. Physical or mental declines may occur, but there’s also a shift in routine that comes with retirement and with a different kind of energy, one determined by years of experience and a knowledge of how a person like to spends their time. A mostly universal concept is that no one wants to have what they can and can’t do decided for them, and any attempts to do so are typically met with a great deal of resistance.

Meir (Meir Gerner) is sixty-eight years old and recently retired. His primary activities involve working on projects at home, and he is also prepared to contribute as he does every year to a local festival. When he learns that his tasks have been handed over to members of a youth group instead, he is angry and begins to question how it is that people see him, through conversations with his wife, his grandchildren, and friends that begin to show him that people no longer think of him as useful.

This narrative feature plays out very much like a documentary, featuring close-up shots of its characters as they sit in bed and converse or drive slowly to their destinations. It certainly creates an intimate experience, one that allows a personal glimpse into Meir’s life and both into the way others perceive him and how he perceives himself. While that approach does allow a window into his perspective, it’s hardly the most riveting angle. A relatively brief eighty-two-minute runtime often drags since not all that much happens in this slow-moving, highly introspective drama.

There is merit to this cinematic process here, which finds writer-director Oren Gerner casting his own parents, Meir and Maya, in the lead roles onscreen. Oren also appears in what is described as a film in which Meir and Maya play “semi-fictional versions of themselves.” It’s a very naturalistic experience, one that, like a documentary, invites the audience to feel as if they are standing right next to the characters, going through their day-to-day processes and living the sentiments expressed by Meir and the others on-screen. The film’s title, which refers to a memorable trip from which Meir and Maya have recently returned, is evocative of a more exciting time in their lives, one that they seek to recapture through stories told and pictures shown to friends. This film has its poignant moments, but overall its message is more emphatic than its content.


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