‘The Day After I’m Gone’

A quiet, nuanced Israeli film, The Day After I Am Gone explores the breakdown of communication within families as a father and daughter come to terms with the recent death of their wife and mother.

In his feature film debut, writer/director Nimrod Eldar’s subtly told storytelling sees Yoram (Menashe Noy – Gett: The Trial of Viviane Ansalam, Kidon), senior vetenarian at Ramat Gan Safari, struggle with his 17 year-old daughter, Roni (Zohar Meidan in her film debut). An attempted suicide sees the two head to his wife’s family home in Ein Gedi overlooking the Dead Sea. A tension pervades the narrative as family opinions intrude on the father-daughter relationship. It’s life on the edge as Roni looks to escape from her trauma within the same oppressive environment from which Yoram himself escaped.

With the disintegrating landscape of the Dead Sea an integral part of the drama, The Day After I Am Gone is a delicate chamber piece of sincerity and honesty as the two attempt to come to understand each other.

Rating: 64%

‘Tel Aviv On Fire’

In spite of a potential political minefield, director Sameh Zoabi (Under the Same Sun) along with co-writer Dan Kleinman navigates a narrative between provocation and playfulness.

Something of a drifter, Salam Abbass (Kais Nashif – Paradise Now, Body of Lies) works as a general dogsbody on the popular 1967-set Palestinian soap opera Tel Aviv on Fire, produced in Ramallah by his uncle. Living in Jerusalem, he passes through the Israeli checkpoint each day. With the tacky espionage soap opera as popular with Israelis as Arabs, the checkpoint commanding officer Captain Assi Tzur (Yaniv Biton – TV’s Alumim, Shabas) looks to influence the plot – with Salam the willing pawn.

It’s a grower of a film with serious intent underlying the parody and lightheartedness that teeters on the edge of trivialising the politics of the region. But with its focus on the individuals involved, Tel Aviv on Fire is a genial, non-confrontational allegory.

Rating: 64%

‘Kosher Beach’

The separated religious beach in Tel Aviv just metres from the busy Hilton gay beach provides ultraorthodox women (on certain days) a sanctuary, a place of rest and escape. Rigid traditions of daily life and the constant presence of people at their home in the orthodox Bnei Brak is made that more bearable by a weekly trip to the beach and the sea. But, fearful of immorality, these trips are threatened by the rabbis: the women will not accept such rulings.

The women featured are remarkably candid – Dina in her unhappy marriage struggling for her three daughters’ want to live in a less repressive environment; the older Tzipora and Rebbetzin passing (at times very funny) commentary on other women on the beach; the (unexpected male) lifeguards and their support for the women; Dina’s daughters and their faith. Interspersed with humour and honesty, Karin Kainer’s film is gentle, non-judgemental and eminently watchable.

Rating: 60%

‘The Cakemaker’

Winner of the 2018 Ophir for best Israeli film, The Cakemaker is a quiet, reflective drama set in Jerusalem and Berlin.

A pastry chef of some repute, quiet, introverted Thomas (Tim Kalkhof – The Painted Bird, TV’s The Queen’s Gambit) travels to Jerusalem on hearing of the death of his lover. A married man, Oren (Roi Miller – Infiltration, Foxtrot) split his professional time between Berlin and his wife, Anat, and young son in Jerusalem.

Whilst avoiding the darker side of its subject (namely grief, desire and sexuality), writer/director Ofir Raul Graizer (his feature film debut) explores the negative spaces of the unfolding drama. Thomas comes to know Anat (Sarah Adler – Restoration, Foxtrot) and, through his baking, helps establish her newly opened cafe, putting the cafe at odds with its kosher status.

Avoiding the need for grandstanding, The Cakemaker is a gentle feature sensitively handling the complexities of social, sexual and religious differences.

Rating: 71%

‘The Angel’

A wholly engrossing true story of Ashraf Marwan (Marwan Kenzari – Old Guard, Aladdin), son-in-law to President Nasser, Egyptian diplomat and a Mossad spy. The Angel is based on  The Angel: The Egyptian Spy Who Saved Israel by Uri Bar-Joseph.

A sublime espionage story of intelligence, counter-intelligence, strategies, bluffs and double bluffs as Marwan travels between Cairo and London, disliked by Nasser but valued by his successor, President Saddat (Sasson Gabai – The Band’s Visit, Gett). Money was the initial motivation for Marwan, but diplomacy rather than war to ease tensions in the region was his voiced opinion (a view disdained by Nasser).

Seemingly shot through a fug of cigarette smoke with 1970s dull autumnal tonality to create atmosphere, director Ariel Vromen (Criminal, The Iceman) captures the tensions of the politics, aided by actual news footage of the time. The film is less assured, however, with time spent on the domestics of Marwan’s home life.

Rating: 62%


Intense, disturbing, claustrophobic, Lebanon is a gut-wrenching broad-brushstroke of an anti-war film but which simultaneously retains a deeply personal perspective through its raw emotion.

Filmed entirely within the confines of a battle-used tank, the first days of the Israeli invasion of Lebanon in 1982 are meticulously detailed by the palpably terrfied crew. Young and inexperienced, destroyed buildings and bloodied, dead bodies are merely glimpsed as instructions are received via a disembodied voice on the radio. Panic and fear reach fever pitch when it’s realised they have lost their way – and must rely on two Lebanese Phalangists to help them find the right track.

Based on his own personal experiences, writer/director Samuel Maoz (Foxtrot) took more than 20 years to bring his traumatic story to the screen. It’s a powerful, heartfelt telling.

Rating: 87%

‘Rock the Casbah’

A personal and powerful feature that addresses modern day warfare and occupation through the eyes of fresh faced, newly conscripted recruits.

It’s 1989 and the new recruits join ‘old hands’ in Gaza as part of compulsory army service for all Israelis. They’re not welcome. But then most of these boys (and they are little more than that) do not really understand why they are there. Emotions escalate when a new arrival is killed and four find themselves posted on a rooftop in Gaza.

It’s the interaction between the four themselves as well as the family of the household that acts as a metaphor for the conflict – the fear, the hate, the acceptance, the arrogance, the boredom, the humour – but ultimately the absurdity of the situation. Authentic performances from a (mostly) young cast help director Yariv Horowitz create a thoughtful, balanced take on the conflict.

Rating: 67%

‘The Band’s Visit’

With its superb small cast, Eran Kolarin’s debut feature The Band’s Visit is wry and heartfelt, a quiet commentary on contemporary Arab-Israeli relations at the time of its making (2007).

Headed by Tawfiq (Sasson Gabai – Gett, Restoration), the visiting Alexandria Ceremonial Police Orchestra arrive from Egypt scheduled to perform in the Israeli city of Petach Tikva. A misunderstanding leaves them stranded in the one-horse desert town of (fictional) Beit Hatikva. Little money, nowhere to stay with the last bus having left and broken English as the only method of communication: things do not look too good for the Egyptians. But a few of the locals band together to help out.

Jews and Arabs alike interact in their different ways. Gabbai is reserved and nuanced whilst jazz-playing Saleh Bakri (Wajib, Water) is younger and less restrained. A sultry but lonely Ronit Elkabetz (Gett, Or – My Treasure) is the perfect foil for Tawfiq’s stuffy melancholia.

A true gem as both comedy and drama slowly unfold, the awkward tension of language and cultural difference sit alongside acts of good intention. It’s poignant, it’s subtle, it’s pointed.

Rating: 90%

‘Sand Storm’

Winner of the 2016 Ophir for best Israeli film, Sand Storm is an enthralling family drama as Bedouin mother and daughter look to change customs carved in cultural stone.

As the film begins, 16 year-old Layla (Lamis Ammar – A Tramway to Jerusalem, Between Heaven & Earth) is being taught to drive by her father. But any sense of further modern thought is soon disspelled as preparations are under way for Suliman’s second marriage. His first wife, Jalila (Ruba Blal, Wajib, The Dead of Jaffa) is ageing and has produced four daughters.

Tradition and custom clash as both mother and daughter separately and together confront Suliman (Hitham Omari – Bethlehem, Gaza mon amour) as his kids are ignored and Layla is kept back from school.

Writer/director Elite Zexer, in her feature debut, explores an all too familiar cultural patriarchy with sensitive insight and teases out nuanced realism from an excellent cast.

Rating: 72%

‘Gett: the Trial of Viviane Amsalem’

An emotionally devastating experience as Viviane Ansalem (Ronit Elkabetz – To Take A Wife, The Band’s Visit) appeals to the rabbinical court to annul her marriage to Simon Abkarian (To Take A Wife, Skyfall), who refuses to agree.

Filmed entirely within the claustrophobic confines of the court’s white-walled office space, witnesses are called during an extraordinary five year process. With the system stacked aginst her, it’s for Viviane’s attorney (Menashe Noy – Working Woman, Big Bad Wolves) to persuade, cajole, argue and threaten. Logic, contempt of court, a short prison spell imposed by the court fails to shift Simon as his brother, a manipulative Sasson Gabai (The Band’s Visit, Restoration) appeals to the court. A woman’s place is in the home with her husband and children.

It’s tough, it’s wordy, it’s infuriating with Elkabetz (sadly, her last role before a premature death at the age of 51) phenomenal – a powerhouse performance of anger, disdain, disbelief and silence. Directed by Ronit with her brother, Shlomi Elkabetz (To Take a Wife, Shiva), Gett is a mesmerising and wholly riveting slow burn.

Rating: 86%