© MFA/Filmagentinnen

Tel Aviv on Fire
Luxembourg/Belgium/Israel/France 2018

Opening 4 Jul 2019

Directed by: Sameh Zoabi
Writing credits: Dan Kleinman, Sameh Zoabi
Principal actors: Kais Nashif, Lubna Azabal, Yaniv Biton, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadim Sawalha

Salam (Kais Nashif), a young Palestinian, has just started a small job in his uncle's film production company. He has to check and correct Hebrew dialogues for the Arab soap opera "Tel Aviv on Fire" and make sure they sound believable. The series takes place in 1967 and involves an Arab "Mata Hari" (Lubna Azabal) who has to steal war plans from an Israeli general. The series is a huge success with Israelis and Palestinians alike. To get to the set, Salam has to drive from Jerusalem to the West Bank and cross an Israeli checkpoint. One morning at the border patrol, the innocent but thoughtless use of a word —only a problem in this environment of heightened tensions— gets him into trouble. He is brought to the office of the Israeli commander Assi (Yaniv Biton), whose wife it turns out is a big fan of "Tel Aviv on Fire.”

Director Sameh Zoabi, who grew up in a Palestinian village and studied in Tel Aviv, is careful not to "ruffle too many feathers" with this comedy. With subtle humor (so subtle one could almost miss it), he points to the absurdities of everyday life in the Middle East. Too bad he doesn't stick with that. Instead he turns his attention to the murky subject of "soap opera mirrors reality" and vice versa. That's when unfortunately the film gets too tedious. (Carola A)

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