Yellow Asphalt consists of three stories about the intersection of Bedouin and Israel lives. An Israeli film that was shot on location in the Judean Desert, the movie looks at how the two different cultures view life and death. The interesting thing is that the film is politically neutral, not favoring one side over the other. Unfortunately this even handed treatment doesn't make the movie good. The film is never engaging and comes close to sinking to the level of melodrama.
The first story concerns two Israeli truck drivers carrying a load through the desert. They turn a sharp curve and accidently hit and kill a young Bedouin boy. When the boy's family discovers his death, the situation nearly becomes violent except for the quick thinking of one of the drivers.
The middle tale is concerns a Bedouin couple who aren't happy together. The wife wants a divorce and to take her two children and leave, but the father won't let his children go. The tribe elders decree that the woman should return home and take care of her family. Not liking this solution, the woman leaves in the middle of the night with her daughters. The rest of this segment is given over to a chase scene through the desert.
The last and longest film involves an married man who is having an affair with a Bedouin woman who is also married. When it is discovered that the woman has been unfaithful, her husband beats her. He would have killed her, but she manages to escape and return to the home of her lover. Not wanting to break up his family, the Jewish man orders his Bedouin field hand kill her. The hand takes her out into the desert, but can't murder her, so he tells her to leave and not return. But return she does and this time she is killed, by her lover while the field hand watches. The field hand is the one whom the tribe suspects of murder though, and he soon has much more trouble than he bargained for.
Though this movie most likely presents an accurate look at the lives of modern Bedouins and the Jews that live near them, it was lacking in depth. There wasn't much in the way of characterization, and consequently it was hard to care about any of the people in the film. Why did the Bedouin woman have an affair if she knew her tribe would kill her for it? Why didn't the hired help go to the police or the tribe elders after he witnessed a murder? Most of the time the motivations for peoples actions weren't explained, and I was left scratching my head.
The first two segments were really too short and didn't amount to much. The second story wasn't anything more than a big chase scene. In this section, I think the director wanted you to feel sympathy for the woman, but her reasons for leaving are never explained. She admits that her husband doesn't hit her or demean her, yet she steals his children from her. I was actually hoping that her husband would catch her.
The acting was mediocre at best. People didn't react in a realistic way most of the time. When the two truckers kill the boy in the first story, they get out and walk slowly to boy, not looking concerned at all. When they are about two yards from him, the driver suddenly that the boy he hit with he truck that was doing 60 MPH might be hurt and runs the last two steps toward him. The bedouins seem to have no reaction to the dead boy either, save for his mother. In all of the stories the actors behave mechanically, like they are following orders rather than actually being the characters they were portraying.
While I appreciate that this wasn't a preachy film, when all was said and done, it didn't say much at all. While it did look at the relationship between the Bedouin tribes and Jewish settlers in Israel, it didn't really say much about the relationship. Because of this it doesn't work as a documentary, and the stories are too thin for the film to work as just plain entertainment.
The two channel Hebrew and Arabic soundtrack was about average. The dialog was easy to make out and there was a fair amount of dynamic range. There wasn't any significant audio defects, but there wasn't anything outstanding either. The sound quality fit the movie. One thing that I was really disappointed to see was that the English subtitles were burned into the print, and are not removable.
The video quality of this movie was only so-so. I was expecting better from a recent film. The image is a little soft, with details being a little blurry. There was a fair bit of grain or digital noise in the image, and surprisingly there were some spots too. The color and contrast were fine, and the movie wasn't hard to watch, it just didn't look as clean as a recent movie should. The film was also presented in full screen. I couldn't find an official aspect ratio, but since it was theatrically released, I would be astounded if this was the film's intended aspect ratio.
The only extras on this disc is the theatrical trailer.
People who are interesting in Arab-Israeli relationships might find
something worthwhile in this film. I wasn't able to though.
None of these three stories were able to capture my interest. The
lack of characterization and motivation meant that I didn't really care
what happened to any of the characters. I found the first story the
most interesting, but was perplexed by the ending. It went down hill
from there. This would be a good movie to avoid. Skip it.