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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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…
- 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.
- 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.
There is a ton of spiritual and religious symbolism in the movie and I hope my discussions in this post allow people to enjoy the movie more next time they watch it. In fact, I think these spiritual themes help make it the best of the three Tobey Maguire Spiderman movies. My opinion is of course entirely contrary to the rating that Rotten Tomatoes assigns to it in relation to the first two in the trilogy. The first Spider-Man has an 89% approval rating, Spider- Man 2 features a 94% rating, and Spider-Man 3 has a much lower 63% rating. They’ve got it completely wrong. Here’s some cool symbols that I really enjoyed.
First and foremost, the director did a great job in having Venom initially bind with Peter Parker after a period of intense anger after hearing that Uncle Ben’s killer is still at large. He stays up listening to the police radio channel for any news of Sandman. When he falls asleep, he has nightmares about Uncle Ben’s death and the anger he felt when he first confronted the original suspect in the first movie. As, Peter Parker dreams, we see a shadow of the venom seize Peter Parker above his chest and continue to take over the rest of his body as it consumes him completely. The venom finding Peter Parker during this particular night is not coincidental; the Venom essentially represents Spider-Man’s lust for vengeance binding with his personality and transforming it. The villainous substance is purely metaphorical; Spider-Man turns into Venom because of his thirst for vengeance and his negative thoughts and emotions. This scene introduces the idea that one’s negative feelings can have a consuming effect on one’s personality. You can couple this desire for vengeance with Peter’s already inflating ego as a New York hero and icon, and you have a recipe for spiritual disaster.
The use of Venom as a symbol of negative personality development is seen in its takeover of Eddie Brock. After Peter manages to get rid of the substance, it falls onto Eddie Brock who unwittingly stands beneath it as it falls away from Spider-Man. Eddie Brock had just been fired by J. Jonah Jameson of the Daily Bugle, from a position he had desperately desired. And he had subsequently seen Peter Parker on a date with the girl of his dreams, Gwen Stacy. These two massive disappointments had left Eddie devastated and extremely angry at Peter. Once the venom falls on him, it takes him over completely and his desire for vengeance and rage take over his personality completely. Here again, we see that Venom isn’t really a character of his own. He is instead, a poison that enters the being of a person that lets dangerous desires and selfish motives consume him completely.
Lastly, we have another spiritual theme in what serves as kryptonite for the evil symbiote: the sound of bells. Spider-Man manages to get rid of his own venom through being close to a giant ringing church bell. The bell is anathema to venom who shrieks and moans when he’s subjected to the noise. What’s the symbolic meaning of this relationship? Well, the church is after all an institution that stands for many of the themes in the movie such as choosing to do right, being sincere, being “good”, and fighting against one’s selfish tendencies. That probably has to do with writers’ choice of a church bell as what removes the venom from Spider-Man.
Agree? Disagree? Regardless, I hope you enjoyed my little analysis. Keep it in mind if you ever watch this awesome movie again.