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Israeli Film Festival Review: Self Made

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Written and directed by Shira Geffen, who is known for her award-winning 2007 film Jellyfish, Self Made (originally titled “Boreg”, Hebrew for “screw”, which is frankly a far more apt name for the film) centres around two characters: Nadine, a Palestinian woman working at an IKEA-like furniture warehouse, and Michal, a famous Israeli artist. The film begins as Michal’s bed breaks, causing her to hit her head. What starts as a simple act of ordering and assembling a new bed sets off a flurry of events – sometimes hilarious, sometimes dramatic, all delightfully bizarre – as the two protagonists discover their lives are connected in more ways than one.

To describe this film as art house would be quite appropriate. The message of the film is a very straightforward analysis of the friction between Israel and Palestine – one of the pivotal locations of the film is an Israeli military border checkpoint – but is presented through increasingly mystifying means. This manifests in minor details, such as doors swinging open for characters of their own accord, but of particular note is the deliberately confusing timeline. The films flits ahead and back in these characters’ lives, in ways that may not be initially obvious to the audience.

Visually, the film is striking. The framing and use of colour in every shot feels deliberate and meticulous, which complements the brightness and lightheartedness that permeates the film. Conversely, that very lightheartedness is used to soften the blow of some confronting scenes at the military checkpoint, presenting the real-life treatment of Palestinian citizens in a frank, realistic manner while still developing the major characters with a dose of humour.

The entire cast is excellent, particularly Samira Saraya as Nadine, who is able to convey a great deal of emotion – and sometimes, a lack of any – despite being a character who communicates mostly through facial expression.

Unfortunately, the end of the film falls under the weight of its own creativity. The seemingly supernatural themes and non-linear timeline do not lead up to a conclusion as satisfying as or well-explained as one would hope for. The film does an excellent job of commenting on the relationship between Israel and Palestine, but sacrifices part of the story in order to drive those points home. 

Nonetheless, this is a superb film. The narrative structure might not suit everyone’s tastes, but it is pleasant for both the eyes and the mind.

Writen by: Pedro Cooray, August 2014

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