Thursday, November 10, 2022

Other Israel Film Festival Spotlight: Lady Amar

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.

Lady Amar
Directed by Yigael Sachs and Noam Gil
Ticket Information

The loss of mental capacity typically comes at a point that it’s no longer possible to recognize that change for the person in question. They may believe that they are lucid and aware of what is happening around them, yet the way in which they communicate their perception of reality indicates that’s not the case. Memory loss and confusion can often set in and lead to someone mistaking others for figures from their past and, at times, believing themselves to be someone else. “Lady Amar” explores one woman’s disassociation from her identity and how that affects her three adult children.

A woman (Orly Tabaly) is picked up off the street at night and brought into a house. She insists to her apparent abductors that she is Pauline Weiss, a high-powered woman who does not belong in a place like this and should be freed immediately. Those around her attempt to persuade her that they are her children: Israel (Itzik Golan), Yarden (Liz Rabian), and Levanon (Victor Sabag), and all she needs to do to remember them is to take her medicine. She appreciates that they think she is their mother but continues to repeat what she believes is the truth, that she is not the woman that they think she is.

As the sole narrative selection at this year’s Other Israel Film Festival, “Lady Amar” represents a different kind of journey. Pauline, whose children tell her she is Jacqueline Amar, comments multiple times that she has nothing against Moroccan immigrants, as if her position is one that makes her evolved and compassionate. But instead it reveals a buried self-hatred and embarrassment of her own heritage that manifests itself when she takes on a new identity, newly able to comment on how she sees herself since she, in that moment, isn’t Moroccan and enjoys a different kind of existence within Israeli society.

The way in which Jacqueline, as Pauline, talks down to and invalidates her children who are pleading with her to do what they say she most needs is painful to watch, and those who have experienced relatives suffering through dementia and other degenerative diseases will surely find this film even more difficult and honest. It’s amplified by the fact that Pauline appears perfectly healthy and competent, with her affliction affecting only her perception of who she is and not her physical health. Understanding that she is suffering from something else is a rollercoaster process enhanced by strong performances from all four cast members. This portrait of lost identity is stirring and haunting, effectively channeling the often miserable process of degenerative aging.


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