Concerned Citizen


Reviewed by: Mateusz Tarwacki

A Concerned Citizen
"Haguel inverts viewers' habits, breaking conventions like a trickster." | Photo: Courtesy of Berlinale

Most films dealing with the topic of gentrification either focus on the perspective of the victims of this process – excluded, marginalised, deprived of their voice – or relegate the topic to the background, as colour for a completely different story, using well-established narrative patterns. In his Concerned Citizen, Idan Haguel paves a completely new path, playing with a mixture of melodrama, black comedy and socially involved cinema.

Ben (Shlomi Bertonov) and his partner (Ariel Wolf) live in a slum in southern Tel Aviv. The couple, however, are not part of this marginalised world, belonging in every respect to a privileged part of society – a wealthy, well-to-do gay couple are in the process of looking for a surrogate for their planned child. The director strongly uses contrasts, at the very beginning of the film juxtaposing the pedantic purity and carelessness of the fulfilled love in which Ben functions, with the anxiety of the neighborhood outside.

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Ben changes his surroundings not only through his work, being responsible for the design of the modernised, gentrified housing estate of the future, which will replace the slums, but also in a more literal way – planting a fragile, young tree on the street. This act of interference with the surroundings will become the starting point for Ben’s dilemmas when, noticing that two immigrants may inadvertently destroy a freshly planted tree, he calls the police, reporting a violation of public property.

Haguel inverts viewers' habits, breaking conventions like a trickster. Unexpectedly, the representative of the LGBT community is not a victim at all, but a victimiser. The white gentrifier, privileged in the capitalist system, in his ignorance, detachment from reality and unconsciousness, is flooding those who barely survive afloat. Ben would like to see himself as an outsider, which is perfectly ironic in the scene where he watches the famous sequence with a nihilistic penguin in Werner Herzog's Encounters At The End of the World. Here is a penguin leaving its herd and instead of heading towards a safe ocean, it heads towards an unknown horizon hidden behind the icy mountains, perhaps to meet its doom. Meanwhile, the heroes of Concerned Citizen are rather like penguins from the middle of the herd, who may only see a real outsider from a safe distance, but then they unshakably go in their previously planned direction.

Additional depth is added to the film by the fact that the lead actors are also a couple in real life, and the immigrants on the screen are real refugees from Sudan and Eritrea. Haguel thus created a sharp image, criticising the liberal attitude to life, devoid of empathy – in the end, even after leaving the safe bubble for a moment, Ben finally returns to it, giving up responsibility and closing his eyes to the surroundings anew.

Reviewed on: 14 Feb 2022
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Concerned Citizen packshot
Drama about the perils of gentrification

Director: Idan Haguel

Writer: Idan Haguel

Starring: Shlomi Bertonov, Ariel Wolf

Year: 2022

Runtime: 82 minutes

Country: Germany

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