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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 17.Apr.20

The Israeli Boys  
Reviews by Rich Cline
The Israeli Boys
release 7.Feb.20
20/UK NQV 1h41

These six short films from Israel are all darkly emotional, exploring deep-seated thoughts and feelings in men and, yes, women who are confronting issues relating to either their own sexuality or someone close to them. Most of the shorts have moments of lightness, as the worries of the world fade at least momentarily. But these are dark, serious little dramas. And none of the issues in these films are easy to grapple with, which gives each one a powerful kick.

chodorov and peri dir-scr Lior Soroka
with Tom Chodorov, Asaf Peri, Or Asher‚ Or Elgarisi, Gil Naveh, Nurit Gordon, Nati Eizenkot
18/Israel 22m


Three Set in Tel Aviv, this relaxed drama starts in a busy gay nightclub where Udi (Chodorov) gets annoyed that his boyfriend Nimrod (Peri) is flirting with a younger guy named Or (Asher). Nimrod says it's how all gay couples stay together, so Udi reluctantly agrees to go along with a one-time threesome. "Just don't fall in love or anything," he mumbles. And Udi likes the idea that a 28-year-old life model finds him hot. So they all get to know each other over dinner and end up in bed. Then they continue developing their friendship, and Udi is surprised that he connects with Or on a deeper level, which raises some tension between him and Nimrod.

There's an easy rhythm to the film that catches the feeling of a couple in their mid-30s who have established a happy life, then try to spice things up. Awkwardness is brushed aside, leading to some witty tentative banter between them, along with some warm connectivity (the sex scene is cuddly rather than steamy). It's a sharply well-written and played little film, exploring an area in a relationship where the rules simply aren't clear-cut, so emotions come in unexpected waves. While it feels somewhat cautionary, writer-director Soroka observes this without judgment, which brings the feelings to life in remarkably vivid ways that challenge us to consider our own reactions.

maman, haen and herman dir-scr Nizan Lotem, Lior Haen
with Lior Haen, Elad Herman, Yossi Maman
16/Israel 12m

A Trip to the Desert  

A Trip to the Desert Three friends head out for a walk in the desert, teasing each other. Yossi prefers not to talk about his love life with Lior, notably a girl he likes who is also Lior's friend. And the deeply religious Elad challenges Lior about being too open about his homosexuality, such as posting a photo of him kissing a guy. When Lior snaps back, Elad doubles down, making hurtful, bigoted comments that launch into a remarkably frank discussion. Then Yossi wanders off, and Lior and Elad need to team up to find him. But their ongoing intense discussion makes it understandable why Yossi might want to get away from them.

The film is skilfully shot in reality-show style, as if the camera crew was lurking to capture whatever might happen between close friends, skilfully weaving around them as they begin to unpick what holds them together. This is a fascinating look at a collision between religion and everyday life in people who have never dealt with the issues between them. The dialog is jaw-droppingly strong, delivered with improv-style authenticity by the gifted young actors. When Ehad admits that gay men disgust him, Lior is shocked. "But so does fennel," Ehad adds, as if that makes it OK. The conversation spirals in honest directions as emotions are frayed. With a smile and a shrug, Ehad simply doesn't realise how cruel his words are.

chamelnik and israel dir-scr Michal Haggiag
with Danielle Chamelnik, Toar Israel, Ran Kaplan, Yotam Herpe, Omer Kaplan, Hemi Kfir Artsy, Omri Danino, Ruth Peleg
18/Israel 10m


Stav There's a doc-style urgency to this short, which is shot on location virtually in real time with people who look and feel real. The camera follows a young woman (Chefetz), a youth centre volunteer who is rushing around the town desperately looking for a 17-year-old guy named Stav (Israel). "You mean the girl with a beard," a group of boys say, mockingly. Then she finally finds Stav as darkness begins to fall, soliciting tricks on a back street. And he won't go back with her because he needs the money. So she follows him, worrying about him. And she will have to drop her guard if she wants to truly understand his life.

Writer-director Haggiag creates a gritty atmosphere that turns dark and moody as this woman follows Stav, witnessing a life she can't begin to imagine. She can't understand why Stav is so angry with her, and indeed a hug says a lot more than her disapproving words. Where the film goes is very provocative, perhaps even a bit shocking, but it's beautifully played. Israel gives Stav a remarkably defiant attitude with glimpses of vulnerability under the bravado ("Do you think they can tell I'm a girl?"), while Chamelnik nicely underplays this woman's yearning to reach out to a young person at risk.

gordon and bielski dir-scr Lior Soroka
with Adi Bielski, Levana Finkelstein, Ori Lachmi, Kim Gordon, Eze Raymond
17/Israel 11m

After His Death  

After His Death Gentle and openly emotional, this film explores the rippling echo of a family secret. It opens at a funeral, as Ayelet (Bielski) buries her father. With the family gathered, she looks through her dad's photo album, finding a photo of him with a man she never knew about, and a note on the back hinting that they were more than friends. Her mother Ronit (Finkelstein) calls him just a colleague and tells Ayelet to drop it. Her brother (Lachmi) is annoyed that Ayelet is causing problems again. So Ayelet quietly reaches out to the man in the photo, then decides to take on her mother's disapproval head-on.

The film buzzes with little signs of larger family dynamics, observing buried tensions between siblings, parents and children. Ayelet discovers that her mother knew about her father's relationship and yet refused to invite the man to the funeral. And this resonates particularly strongly for her because Ronit has never fully accepted Ayelet's own homosexuality and her partner Carmel (Gordon). The filmmaking is rough around the edges, shot in real locations with a simple script that cleverly talks around the issues at hand. This makes it feel a bit slight, but it's also involving and ultimately moving.

klauzner and friends dir-scr Moshe Rosenthal
with Uri Klauzner, Yoav Rotman, Chen Hefetz, Ben Heine, Ayelet Margalit, Tal Blankstein, Michal Bernstein, Lior Naor, Shira Eden
16/Israel 17m

Leave of Absence  

Leave of Absence After an attempt to dye his hair goes horribly wrong, Meir (Klauzner) needs to escape from the teasing he gets from his wife (Margalit) and two grown daughters (Blankstein and Bernstein). Walking through the city wearing a cap to cover his fried curls, he runs into three former students (Rotman, Hefetz and Heine) who have missed his history lessons since he's been on a leave of absence. They talk him into coming with them to the local swimming pool, sneaking in after it's closed, swimming and smoking weed.

What follows is a remarkable trip into youth culture, as the boys play around the pool, shooting colourful pics and videos, gently involving Meir in their antics. Meir is clearly uncomfortable in this setting, but begins to loosen up, which makes the film remarkably charming. The boys talk about how students seem to get more stupid each year, but Meir rejects this, saying that they're just different, that each one is an individual. The film is beautifully shot, with a vivid sense of the locations and the characters, with sensitive performances that allow the cameras to see under the surface. It's also a fascinating, unexpected odyssey for Meir, who begins to connect to the free-spirited young man he never allowed himself to be.

A L S O   O N
The Israeli Boys

Rubber Dolphin Rubber Dolphin  
dir-scr Ori Aharon
with Chen Chefetz, Omri Laron
18/Israel 28m 4/5

Reviewed at BFI Flare 2019

cert 15 themes, language, sexuality 15.Apr.20

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