Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua

I’m delighted to be returning for the eighth time to cover the Other Israel Film Festival, which features a diverse crop of thought-provoking and often difficult, complex, Israeli and Palestinian cinema and is hosted by the JCC Manhattan. The 16th Annual Other Israel Film Festival runs virtually and in-person November 3rd-10th, 2022.

The Last Chapter of A.B. Yehoshua
Directed by Yair Qedar
Ticket Information

It’s always enlightening to watch a film about an author, since the two mediums are inherently different and fans of a writer’s work aren’t necessarily used to seeing the person behind their beloved words as a living and breathing person. In the case of A.B. Yehoshua, an acclaimed Israeli writer who passed away this past June at the age of eighty-five, his cinematic biography provides a wondrous and welcome window into the life of a man who famously didn’t want any identity and enjoyed a remarkably warm relationship with many different communities.

Accomplished filmmaker Yair Qedar has profiled many Israeli authors in the past, and Yehoshua seems perfectly pleased to be his latest - and possibly greatest - subject. Born in 1936 in what was then British Mandatory Palestine, Yehoshua came of age seeing his native-born father enjoy good relations with Arabs as the country of Israel was established. The relationship between his father and his Moroccan immigrant mother is something he returns frequently to as a negative example of old age because they did not love each other, while he is still processing the death of his own wife.

Yehoshua is well aware of his situation and his declining health, commenting that all of his friends are dead and that he feels as if he’s left standing guard with a rifle. Yet that doesn’t stop him from continuing to share his work with eager young minds and prominent leaders. He gets a call from former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin, whom he describes as a good friend, and then is enthusiastically welcomed by a Palestinian group that appreciates his call for a productive solution to the current conflict. He’s a rare figure who is seen as an ally to many people and groups with theoretically incongruent goals, yet he rejects any label or attempt to pigeonhole him into an identity that may be applicable but doesn’t serve him any productive purpose.

This film uses animated backdrops to highlight excerpts from Yehoshua’s books that provide a brief glimpse into the themes he returned to and help his words come alive for those unfamiliar with his work. This buoyant and engaging documentary has added poignancy due to Yehoshua’s death ahead of this screening, framing this as a properly-titled last chapter in which Yehoshua himself has the chance to have the final say on what he thinks of his legacy.


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