Israel In Sight

Catching the Death Boat Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star Seeing the Middle East in all its colors

The nineteenth Israel Film Festival lets us see once again how diverse the troubled land in that turbulent sea is -- physically, politically, and philosophically. A classic across-the-divide love story in A Trumpet in the Wadi follows the impossible relationship of a Russian immigrant and an Arab woman; in Miss Entebbe the Arab protagonist is a boy who is kidnapped by thirteen-year-old girls in response to the 1976 Entebbe, Uganda hijacking of an Israeli airline; The Return from India delves into infidelity and reincarnation on a trip to the subcontinent. There are also programs featuring films from women directors (one reviewed below), documentaries (one reviewed below), and works of young Israeli filmmakers. The festival kicks off with a gala tonight at 7:00 and runs until November 6 at the Sunrise Intracoastal Cinema, 3701 NE 163rd St., North Miami. Tickets cost $8, $6.50 for matinees; call 877-966-5566.

Catching the Death Boat

Sometimes short can be very sweet. All I've Got, a new film from Keren Margalit, may be only 68 minutes long but it packs in more plot twists and emotional impact than most features. The story starts at the scene of a horrific automobile accident in 1955. Two battered young survivors lie trapped in an upended wreck. Tamara is able to speak to a rescuer, but her boyfriend Uri dies from his injuries. Suddenly it's 50 years later and Tamara, now 75 and dead, is about to board a ship bound for the afterlife. The perky attendant tells Tamara that she should be boarding the Ship of the Old for those who die of old age, but for some odd reason, Tamara is scheduled to board the Ship of the Young instead, which carries away those who died prematurely, by suicide or accident, war or disease.

The after-death love boat (top) sets sail; the hard rock life of France's favorite Israeli pop star (bottom)
The after-death love boat (top) sets sail; the hard rock life of France's favorite Israeli pop star (bottom)

Seeking to resolve the mixup, Old Tamara boards the Ship of the Young and seeks out its captain, Victor, who explains the deal. Tamara has been brought aboard on purpose because her long-dead love Uri is aboard, working as a deck hand while awaiting Tamara for half a century. Victor has allowed Uri to stay onboard so that when Tamara finally arrives, she can make a fateful decision: She can choose to spend eternity with Uri. If she does so, she returns to her youthful self but will lose all memory of her husband David and their children. If she chooses to keep her memories, she will remain old and never see Uri, the love of her life, again.

Wooed by young Uri, Old Tamara decides to stay with him and is transformed back to her younger self. She reunites with Uri, their love as passionate as it was long ago. But Tamara's bliss is complicated by the sudden arrival of her husband David, who, it turns out, was the rescuer that saved her from the wreck in which Uri died. David, filled with loneliness after the death of his wife, has killed himself in hopes of being with her again. As a suicide, he is sent to the Ship of the Young, where he is heartbroken to find Young Tamara with Uri and without any memory of her marriage. But David begins to woo her again; slowly Tamara comes to realize she has conflicting feelings for both men, and she must make a final choice before the ship reaches the afterworld.

The exploration of life's meaning and the choices one must make have been the subject of any number of films, but many stumble when they are long on philosophy and short on entertainment. All I've Got is a welcome exception. The film offers a mythic, haunting quality; a quick, narrative pace; and considerable humor and pathos. Director Margalit slips in some subtle touches: Tamara, who seems to be guided more by chance than choice, meets Uri again in the ship's casino; when Uri persuades Tamara to join him in the ship pool, an onboard dance troupe performs the can-can from Offenbach's Orpheus in the Underworld.

The cast is very strong, with Lea Szlangar and Sylwia Trzesniowska as the two versions of Tamara, and Amit Drori and Nathan Cogan as the men in her life (and afterlife). Cinematographer Yoram Millo's camerawork offers considerable visual appeal despite the low-budget restraints. Originally shot for television in 16mm, All I've Got is in Hebrew with English subtitles.-- Ronald Mangravite

All I've Got screens at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 5, and at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, November 6.

Wanna Be a Rock and Roll Star

Modern culture has an enduring fascination with self-destructive rock stars, and many a documentary has centered on show-biz flameouts. The latest is Mike Brant: Laisse-Moi T'Aimer, about an Israeli who became the biggest singing sensation in France before his untimely death at the age of 28. Centering on extensive archival performance footage and interviews with the star's family and friends, this feature-length documentary offers plenty of biographical detail, but little insight into Brant's enigmatic, troubled personality.

Moishe Brand was born in Cyprus in 1947, the second son of Holocaust survivors. He grew up in poverty in Haifa, but found fame and fortune as a singer. Brand had a strong, if untrained, voice, movie-star looks, and maybe most important, a determination to make it as an American-style pop star. He failed to do so in Tel Aviv, but found a gig working a nightclub in Tehran. From there he decided to try Paris, where he found a string of clever, manipulative managers. He changed his name to the more commercial Mike Brant, gained vocal polish and stage presence, and his career took off. He rapidly rose to the top of the charts with a string of romantic ballads. Money, fame, and mobs of adoring female fans quickly came his way.

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