Ana Arabia

Ana Arabia


Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

The decision to make a film in a single take can't be an easy one, especially if you don't want to confine your characters to just one space, but Amos Gitai's Ana Arabia proves that stylistic audacity is not enough if the originality doesn't extend to your story.

We're in Arab/Jewish relationship territory and the familiar refrain of 'why can't we all get along' rings out. Set in a small community in Jaffa, on the outskirts of Tel Aviv, a young Jewish journalist Yael (Yuval Scharf) has gone to report on a recently deceased Holocaust survivor, nicknamed Ana Arabia, who converted to Islam for love and married Arabic builder Yussuf (Yussuf Abu-Warda).

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For the next hour and 25 minutes, she wanders around the down-at-heel buildings and garden, chatting to Yussuf and various other residents in a bid to get profile information for an article - although the conversations are mostly concerned with the state of modern Israel rather than Ana Arabia herself. Among the residents is Sarah (Assi Levy), an in-law of Yussuf's whose own intercultural marriage was unable to go the distance, and his daughter Miriam (Sarah Adler), who tends the garden while offering up equality metaphors, such as a story about letting weeds grow in order to protect flowers from unruly kids.

"What should I be afraid of?" Yael is asked regarding the two communities. "That side or this side?"

What potential audiences should be afraid of is boredom. Despite the movement around the compound and the open spaces suggested by the impressively captured ambient noise, the conversation is stuck in a rut - if I didn't know better, I'd say the whole enterprise had been unsuccessfully adapted from a stage play.

Also, Scharf utterly fails to convince as a junior reporter. In this day and age almost everyone records interviews such as this on a dictaphone and, if she was using shorthand, she would likely be getting the sack on her return to the office, as she barely takes any notes. Instead, the journalist idea comes across as nothing more than a contrived conceit, while the notebook is merely an annoying prop that she toys with from time to time, rather than using. The heart of Gitai's film is in the right place but the script runs off at the mouth. It is its final moments - when the talking stops and we are allowed to consider the environment more fully - that prove the most poignant.

Reviewed on: 22 Jun 2014
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Drama considering peaceful co-existence in Jaffa.

Director: Amos Gitai

Writer: Amos Gitai, Marie-Jose Sanselme

Starring: Yuval Scharf, Yussuf Abu-Warda, Sarah Adler, Assi Levy, Uri Gavriel, Norman Issa, Shady Srour

Year: 2013

Runtime: 85 minutes

Country: France, Israel


EIFF 2014

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