A Borrowed Identity/Dancing Arabs Movie Review

If you are observing a cultural boycott of Israel please disregard this post.  If you are not, then please continue to read as I will now review an Israeli film called A Borrowed Identity and in other countries, Dancing Arabs.  This movie is worth seeing!  It’s about a young Israeli-Palestinian boy and his experiences growing up in Israel and attending the most prestigious boarding school there. It also shows how he faces issues of racism, assimilation, discrimination, friendship, and romance.  It’s a fascinating look at Israel from the perspective of its Arab citizens who often find themselves in conflicting situations as they are in the eyes of the state and the general population unwanted residents.  But honestly there are some things that the directors and producers did badly and I will outline those as well.  First, the positives:

  1. Good acting – Tawfeek Barhom does a great job portraying the stoic and reserved Eyad. Michael Moshonov might have given the best performance, portraying a paralyzed and ill student (Yonatan) who becomes Eyad’s best friend. The actress that portrays Edna, Yonatan’s mom, does a great job and so does Daniel Kitsis as Naomi.
  2. Good engagement with important aspects of Israeli society – The movie brings up the issue of education in a few scenes, both in Eyad’s childhood in an Arab/Palestinian school and in history class at the advance Israeli boarding school.  The viewer gets to see history as a contested field and how terribly biased the study can be when co-opted by the state to create narratives designating the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, establishing simple stories to explain who’s part of the Israeli we and who falls outside of the fold.
  3. Accepting ambiguity – Perhaps the most ambivalent aspect of the film is its acceptance of ambiguity.  It’s human nature to want a story to end decisively or for characters to be black or white.  The movie does a great job in accepting that life is not so simple.  Lots of issues and dilemmas in the movie are not resolved completely, but perhaps that is all right…

The negatives:

  1. Dialogue regarding the Israeli/Palestinian situation is a little too simple for me, especially when the scenes showed life for young Eyad in his Israeli-Arab town.  The director and writers could have done a way better job explaining perhaps the Israeli-Arab wars that occurred in the past or the military occupations of the West Bank and Gaza.  Instead, the writers chose to have Eyad’s family repeat empty rhetoric about the destruction of the Israeli state.  It’s too simplistic and too steorotypical.  In fact, to me, it seems to be catering to how an Israeli audience would want to see an Israeli-Arab family behave.  The writers completely failed in this front because movies should not be about pleasing an audience but about proposing evocative and provocative questions.  I don’t think any Arab family speaks about politics the way Eyad’s family is portrayed to do so; I think the writers completely failed there.
  2. I thought the interaction and relationship between Eyad and Naomi could have been initiated and developed better.

With that said, I think the movie is worth checking out.  If you see it, let me know what you think in the comments.



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