- Tel Aviv on Fire
- Directed by Sameh Zoabi
- Written by Sameh Zoabi
- Starring: Kais Nashef, Lubna Azabal and Yaniv Biton
- Classification: PG; 97 minutes
The Palestinian writer-director Sameh Zoabi likely won’t win an Oscar for his good-humoured farce on the Israeli – Palestinian conflict, but could we interest him in a peace prize? Because his film is about sympathy and listening to both sides, and his irreverence is charming.
The film is called Tel Aviv on Fire, yet nothing is inflamed. Kais Nashef stars as a mild-mannered Palestinian flunkie who only through nepotism and bilingual fluency lands a job as a production assistant on a popular Palestinian soap opera set in the months preceding the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. He manages to fall upward into a scriptwriting position, where he is subject to the competing wishes of a temperamental French actress and an Israeli checkpoint officer.
Nashef is a sombre Roberto Benigni in his role as a sincere bumbler, defusing situational bombs with hummus-based subterfuge and desperate diplomacy. This satire in Hebrew and Arabic is an answer in an allegorical and comical way, about a mad circumstance and a man in the middle of it. A tense and painful backdrop, sure, but there’s no stick up Zoabi’s butt, just an olive branch.
Tel Aviv on Fire opens in Toronto on Aug. 2; Montreal, Aug. 9.
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