More reviews from the 20th UK International Jewish Film Festival. This time looking at two films from Israel giving insights into Arab/Israeli relations, featuring this mockumentary written by Sayed Kashua and directed by Shay Capon.
If you loved Arab-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua’s Arab Labour and you’re into Larry Davidson, this meta-reality TV series, which has its first three episodes screened at the Festival, is for you. But don’t expect to get the belly laughs or even the cynical giggles you got from Larry and Arab Labour’s genial, narcissistic anti-hero Amjad (who finds celebrity when he wins a TV reality show). Kashua’s writer Kateb (wonderfully perplexed Yousef Sweid) is his fictional alter ego, an Arab-Israeli TV writer who has achieved celebrity status with his hit TV series called – yes you’ve guessed it – Arab Labour.
But Kaleb is uneasy about his celebrity – is he merely the acceptable face of Arab-Israeli culture – the creative who makes Israelis feel liberal when they laugh with him at his clever take on life on the other side of the cultural divide? And despite – or perhaps partly because of his success, he’s having a mid-life crisis. Is he really living the dream or is he increasingly alienated from his admittedly demanding wife and teenage daughter as he ineffectually juggles the life/work balance with increasingly chaotic results? And then there’s his insecure pre-teen son, terrified by his father’s altercation with a black-garbed, Orthodox Jew complete with sidecurls as the pair go head to head over a parking space. Will their overreaction lead to violent repercussions or will an apology go some way towards rapprochement between these members of two communities living uneasily side by side?
His attempt to answer these questions leads him to announce a sabbatical from making a new series of Arab Labour – instead he proposes a series based on a character much like himself, going through just the sort of life experiences he is experiencing. See what I mean about meta-reality? This one really does have as many layers as an onion. So the laughs are subtle and the questions posed about Israeli society promise to continue to be telling in the rest of the series of ten episodes. With Fauda – the hit action series about an Israeli undercover unit operating in Palestinian territory that has proved a runaway success with both Palestinians and Israelis – about to come to Netflix, I’m optimistic that I’ll find out – I just hope I don’t have to wait too long!
By Judi Herman
The Writer screens on Sunday 20 November, 4pm, at JW3, NW3 6ET.