Tuesday, December 4, 2012

OFF-WHITE LIES: father-daughter bond is tested in Maya Kenig's Israeli "family" film; for the holidays, a new Jewish Film Club

The term con artist has been tossed around (it even appears on the poster, at right) regarding the new Israeli movie OFF-WHITE LIES, about an Israeli father, the sudden appearance of his early-teenage daughter, and how the pair end up getting room-and-board under false pretenses. But "con artist" is really not who either of these characters are, certainly not the daughter, who is pretty much forced into this situation. Even her dad (to whom the description comes closer) is more a smart and creative man who needs to grow up and accept responsibility than any out-and-out crook.

The film's director and co-writer (with Dana Diment) is a young woman named Maya Kenig, shown at left, who has been an actress, editor and is now a first-time, full-length filmmaker. The result of her work is a movie that's quietly provocative and thoughtful, as it takes a look at the country of Israel around the time of the second Lebanon War (the summer of 2006) and finds a wealth of interesting characters that in every case rise above any easy cliches.

This is as true of the father (Gur Bentwich) and daughter (Elya Inbar, in her debut role), shown below and further below, whom we learn the most about, as it is of the family with whom they stay -- a mother, father and older teenage son, played respectively by three fine actors: Salit AchimiriamTzahi Grad and Arad Yeni. (Mom and son are first-timers who acquit themselves surprisingly well.)

The plot, such as it is, is less interesting that the various situations the characters get themselves into, how they handle these and what each does to them. Nothing is entirely predictable here, although, finally, everything is quite believable. Most predictable, I think, is the "given" that daughter will finally bond with her father, and how and why this happens provides the movie's mature and intelligent surprise.

The children here appear more mature than the adults, and yet it is also clear that this can be so because they have not yet had to compromise in the way mature adults usually must. Compromise and responsibility are everywhere here, a kind of reflection on Israeli life, I expect.

What is also rather unusual and actually charming about Off-White Lies is that this easy-going movie, really more of a comedy than a drama, is set in wartime. Of course, one could suggest that, for the state of Israel, its 60-plus-year history has been almost constant wartime of a sort.

The movie opens theatrically this Friday, December 7, in New York City at the Lincoln Plaza Cinema. Other playdates? Nothing scheduled yet, but click here to view any playdate updates.

A propos, Off-White Lies, this film is part of a relatively new venture from the folk who also bring you Film Movement. This group has recently embarked upon a new film club with a decidedly Jewish slant. It's The Jewish Film Club, an every-other-month offering from which you receive award-winning Jewish-themed films from the world’s premiere festivals, including Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Tribeca, Toronto and the New York Jewish Film Festival, without, of course, having to leave the comfort of your own home. And, as with Film Movement, members can also enjoy free streaming of their club selections anytime.

The first club of its kind for Jewish independent and foreign festival gems, The Jewish Film Club offers something unique and appealing for anyone interested in Jewish culture coming at you in the form of drama, action, adventure, thriller, comedy -- in both English-language and foreign-language films. And, as with Film Movement, club members receive these prized films before or while they’re playing in theaters—months before they’re made available to the general public for in-home viewing.

Unlike Film Movement, The Jewish Film Club is, as of now, a kind of film-of-the-every- other-month club, in which some of the past titles have included FREE MEN which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival (featuring French star Tahar Rahim, from the Oscar nominated A Prophet,); the French family comedy, THE DAY I SAW YOUR HEART featuring Melanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds); and the just-out, critically-acclaimed German-Israeli documentary, HITLER’S CHILDREN, about the descendants of the Nazi’s inner circle (including Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring and Heinrich Himmler). Additionally, every feature film disc includes a short film from a hot, up-and-coming director. Each feature and short is selected by The Jewish Film Club’s executives, who travel the world in search of great cinema to share with the Club members.

The cost? Memberships are available in a 6-month package ($55.00 + $3.25 per DVD for shipping and handling or a 12-month package ($95.00 with free shipping and handling). Though there was some early crossover -- a film or two that appeared both in Film Movement and The Jewish Film Club -- I am told that the two film clubs will attempt to have as little crossover as possible. Since that same high level of taste and entertainment that Film Movement almost consistently achieves will also be applied to The Jewish Film Club, a membership, to my mind, would be a very smart move. (And with Chanukah just around the corner, the new club makes a nice gift idea, too!)

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