Film Movement // Unrated // $24.98 // December 7, 2010
Review by Neil Lumbard | posted February 12, 2011
Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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The Film:

Sometimes one witnesses a film and really has no idea what to expect from the experience. Viewing Jaffa was one of those times for me. I am not familiar with the kind of artistry found in film-making coming from Israel and was curious to see what kind of story I would discover. Would it in the form of a fascinating art film? Or would it be the equivalent of any modern drama? What I was delighted to find was that this particular work is a powerful and involving modern-day story with Shakespearean qualities. Jaffa shouldn't be labeled as a tragedy, and yet it most certainly is one. It creates an odd combination of being hopeful and strangely pessimistic at the same time.
The story takes place in Jaffa (as the title suggests). This area in Israel creates a community inhabited by both Jews and Arabs.  There is clear unrest and this is an important aspect and reflection found within the film's central story. Two of the characters are in love with one another without the knowledge being shared with those surrounding them in their daily lives. Mali (the beautiful Dana Ivgy) is a daughter to Reuven (Moni Moshonov), who runs a family operated garage that fixes cars, and Toufik (Mahmud Shalaby), is a Palestinian who works at the garage. Mali and Toufik are those lovers - and it is clear they have a special bond, one which can be found with unspoken words and the actor's impeccably nuanced performances.
There is trouble brewing for the times ahead. Mali's brother Meir (Ro'I Asaf) is an emotionally unbalanced and unhappy young man who seems unsatisfied with his life. This emotion comes out in painstakingly realistic scenes with the entire family dynamic, which includes the mother Osnat (Ronit Elkabetz), who eventually breaks out in anger at Meir and demands that he leave. Meir returns the next day for work and is in an even worse mood than he was before. His anger seems to pour out of him. And, sadly, something happens to change the course of the story for all of the characters involved.
I hesitate to delve further as this is the kind of story that should be experienced without knowing more about the events that transpire. I wouldn't want to spoil the ending either. I am willing to at least admit it does not arrive at an easy destination. What I truly want to stress about this film is how original the artistic voice of writer/director Keren Yedaya is. I was blown away by how strong the performances were (a large tribute to her direction) and both the screenplay and direction give the film a documentary-feel, in that Jaffa creates a sense of realism and somehow also manages to be a beautifully framed work of art. The camera is used as necessary and Yedaya knows when to simply let it sit still and have the actors define their roles. That ability alone should be worth more than 1,000 overblown Hollywood productions (is that a currency?). The cinematography is also perfectly appropriate: at times lush, and more often murky -- filled with a sense of sadness that helps to reflect the mood established within the frame.  The musical score by Sushan is heartbreakingly beautiful and almost moved me to tears with its wonderful orchestral sound and powerful vocals. If editing was always as good as it is in Jaffa film-making would also be better off too. Editor Assaf Korman seems to know exactly how to create an appropriate editorial pace to the feature and when to let a scene end and that should be viewed as praise to his work and Yedaya's.
The DVD:


Jaffa is presented in the original 1:85:1 aspect ratio with an anamorphic presentation. The results are notably pleasing. Colors appear to be muted with an often brown undertone that captures the essence of the cinematography. The transfer appears to be free of dirt, nicks, or any other deficiencies.


The audio is not quite as impressive - though is certainly succeeds in getting the job done. The 2.0 soundtrack is clean and crisp but a 5.1 mix would have been preferable for my viewing. The score by Sushan sounds well reproduced. English subtitles are included.


Israeli short film is included: Lost Paradise, from directors Mihal Brezis and Oded Binnun.  It also features a story with political undertones and a romance. However, I personally did not find it anywhere near as compelling. This may have been in part due to the shorter length being unable to properly represent all of the thoughts the film-makers wanted to convey.
Trailers for other Film Movement releases and short biographies covering those individuals involved in making Jaffa are also included as extras.

Final Thoughts:

This was one of my first experiences with Israeli cinema. I was thoroughly engrossed and pleased with this cinematic treasure, and would highly recommend it to any film fan who appreciates what foreign cinema has to offer. The story is one that can be universally understood by those who choose to view Jaffa, and it is both powerful and resonant.  Directed by Keren Yedaya (Or), this is an overlooked and under-appreciated gem.

Highly Recommended.

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