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Director Eran Riklis’s film Dancing Arabs is opening under its original name in Canada. Distributors in France, Spain, Germany and the United States changed its name.

Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

3 out of 4 stars

Directed by
Eran Riklis
Starring
Tawfeek Barhom
Country
USA
Language
English

If truth is the first casualty of war, nuance runs a close second, which is why it was all the more distressing when the Jerusalem Film Festival cancelled its world premiere of the satisfying, novelistic new drama from award-winning director Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) as Hamas and Israel attacked each other last summer.

Like Eyad, the shy Arab teenager integrating in stutter-steps into mainstream Israeli society in the early 1990s, Riklis, working from an adaptation of a popular novel by the Arab-Israeli writer Sayed Kashua, is wryly perceptive of the ways each side exoticizes and demonizes the other.

Even as Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) falls in love with a fellow student (Daniel Kitzis), supplies his classmates with awesome hummus, and becomes like a brother to Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), a Jewish teen suffering from muscular dystrophy, the reality of his identity seems inescapable.

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"Sometimes I forget you're an Arab," Yonatan says. "Me too," replies Eyad. "Don't worry," his friend quips. "Someone will always remind you."

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