Boreg (Self Made) Review

Posted: October 20, 2014 in 2014 London Film Festival, Comedy, Drama, Fantasy, Reviews
Tags: , , , , ,

self-madeIf you are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to see Self Made – a pleasure limited to attendees at a number of film festivals, including the London Film Festival, since the movie’s premiere at Cannes earlier this year – do not be mislead by the one-sentence teaser description that often accompanies a showing. Self Made is not a mere comedy of mixed identities between an Israeli and a Palestinian. This is no Freaky Friday for the Middle East, where two women develop a mutual appreciation by walking a mile, or standing in line at a checkpoint for half a day, in the other’s shoes. Self Made is not a fairy tale, nor does it offer a magic wand solution for peace in this most troubled of regions.

Instead, the film is a thoughtful, challenging trip through the dreamscapes of two women whose daily lives are structured, limited, and controlled in the severest of circumstances, an environment where the routines they have fashioned for themselves can be completely undone by something as simple as a missing screw. They do not assume the other’s identity so much as pass one another in overlapping dreams, and sleepwalk into the other’s life. Director/writer Shira Geffen has fashioned a stark, original film that is slightly off-putting at the outset, but becomes increasingly fascinating, even hypnotic as it develops.

Michal (Sarah Adler) is sleeping soundly next to her husband in her Jerusalem apartment when the bed frame inexplicably snaps and sends her onto the floor. Her husband takes this as the morning alarm, and is out the door and on his way to Stockholm, a business trip that Michal forgot about, just as she forgot about the group coming to interview her about her new installation. Oh, that’s right – she also forgot that she’s a conceptual artist, that she has an anniversary coming up, and that her name is…

She does manage to call an IKEA-like company and order a bed, which is how we meet Nadine (Samara Saraya), the Palestinian woman responsible for putting the screws in the bags that go in the boxes that contain the parts for the bed frames. Screws are important to Nadine – not only is she responsible for counting them at work, she also uses them as breadcrumbs of a sort to mark her way from the border crossing to her place of business. When Michal comes up one screw short, Nadine loses her job.

Is Self Made an even-handed look at the Israel-Palestine situation? Is that possible or is the simple notion of fairness naive given the intensity of emotion on both sides? A woman dons a suicide bomber’s vest – what’s more, it’s an Israeli woman being outfitted by a Palestinian male. A young Israeli soldier, barely more than a child, threatens a group of Palestinian girls at a checkpoint she believes to be laughing at her. Do these images balance? It is beyond presumptuous to assume how parties on either side of the conflict would react to Self Made. From a distance, without regard to a particular political agenda, it is mesmerizing filmmaking. While much of the movie is of the quality of a dream, the ending is heavy and haunting and all too real.

Four stars.

 

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