For My Father (Israel 2008, 100 min. dir: Dror Zahavi, cast: Shredi Jabarin, Hili Yalon, Shlomo Vishinsky).
A too sensitive suicide bomber is in Tel Aviv is to blow himself up in the Carmel market but he’s delayed by a bad detonator button. The pause is long enough for several Jews to complain, “You think you’ve got problems?”
Dror Zahavi plays it straight in what also could be flipped into a Woody Allen comedy. Tarek (Shredi Jabarin) is dropped off by his buddies at the Tel Aviv’s big Friday market. If he doesn’t detonate, his handlers do it by remote cell phone control. When the button one his explosive vest doesn’t work, he takes the button to an electrical store for quick repairs, assuring his handlers he’s got the situation under control and they don’t need to trigger the remote. Electric merchant Katz (Shlomo Vishinsky) tells him the button is caput. The good news is he can order a replacement but it won’t be delivered until Sunday because of the Sabbath.
That gives him two nights and a day to wander around, save lovely Keren (Hili Yalon, also see her in Lemon Tree (Movie with Me) from being beaten up by Hassidic toughs because she looks slutty (they want to take her back to her Orthodox family). He also gets a dose of Jewish wisdom and fatalism from Katz and friends. Meanwhile we learn Tarek was an aspiring soccer champion but turned bitter when his father was beaten up by Israeli border guards.
There is enough breast beating here to make everyone hang their head. The showdown comes Sunday in the market when Katz, who is on to Tarek’s mission, tries a soul searching approach to stop him, just ahead of the police sniper team’s bullets.
The hand wringing would have worked in a comedy, although I guess a comedy about suicide bombers is not exactly commercial for Jewish film festivals where films like this usually make their money. As a drama, it still has its moments and manages to delve into the mind of the terrorist. See Sontash Sivan’s The Terrorist (Movie With Me) for comparison. His film is about a pregnant suicide bomber with the Tamil Tigers and takes a much more personal, complex approach.
But For My Father has its moments and makes its point. For those with the stomach to mix sociology with suicide, it is a good meal.