Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bubble. What bubble?

Choose your bubble, if you want to remain comfortable inside Israeli society. But be forewarned that these sometimes go pop. Particular neighborhoods in West Jerusalem form little protective bubbles for the Ashkenazi, the Sephardim, the Ultra-Orthodox, leftists, or the government elites. Likewise, even in the Old City, there are comfortable bubbles that seem to keep the other side at bay. The same is true in mostly secular (and highly sexed) Tel Aviv.

Check out "The Bubble", the latest film by American-born Israeli director Eytan Fox, whose credits also include the bright and chatty "Walk on Water" and "Yossi & Jagger". It was released in cities across the US this autumn to critical raves and has been doing well on the festival circuit. So it’s worth tracking down.
It follows the life of Ashraf (Youssef Sweid), a gay Palestinian who stayed in the closet back in his pro-Hamas hometown but came out as an undocumented immigrant in Tel Aviv’s tolerant Sheinkin Street. It's fascinating, at least according to the film critic. When Ashraf hooks up with hunky blond Noam (Ohad Knoller) and lands in the household he shares with Yelli (Alon Freidmann) and token-straight-woman Lulu (Daniella Wircer), they posture, preen, and mix sophisticated sexual politics with the "Friends"-style gags and pratfalls.

The actual "bubble" of Tel Aviv's lefty, gay-friendly scene must be hipper than this movie. Inevitably, the Realpolitik of the Israeli metropolis tears Noam and Ashraf apart, and then brings them back together in a climax that's shocking, daring and jars the film’s frothy gay world by revealing the surrounding social and political anguish.

1 comment:

Shira said...

The Salon piece that you quote in this post is pretty short and superficial, and doesn't really give the impression that the reviewer saw all the films. I'd hardly describe Walking on Water, with its phlegmatic Mossad agent protagonist, played by Lior Ashkenazi, as "bright and chatty."

If you live in Jerusalem, you can rent all the films at your local Third Ear. I do recommend them. They're not perfect, but they offer an insight into Israeli society that is seldom experienced by foreign correspondents whose experience of this country is limited to the hothouse atmosphere in Jerusalem.

It is true that Tel Aviv is one of the world's most gay-friendly cities (according to The Advocate and the Village Voice), but Jerusalem is really an anomaly in its intolerance. One of the most interesting aspects of Israel's gay scene is highlighted in the film via a secondary gay character who served in a super-macho army combat unit. In one telling scene, he tells Yelli that he was out of the closet while in the army, but his straight army friends didn't have any problem with his sexual orientation.