Strangers will be screened as part of the New Jersey Jewish Film Festival on Tuesday, March 24, at 9:45 a.m., and Thursday, March 26, at 7:30 p.m. at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, Ross Family Campus, West Orange.
The Ninth Annual New Jersey Jewish Film Festival, sponsored by JCC MetroWest, will run from March 19 through 29. Tickets for each screening cost $12, $10 for seniors, and $8 for students. Tickets for the opening night (The Little Traitor) and closing night films — which include post-screening discussions with special guests and a dessert reception — cost $20, $18 for seniors, and students. Group sales are also available.
The movies will be shown at the Leon & Toby Cooperman JCC, Ross Family Campus, West Orange, and other venues.
Visit www.njjff.org to view the schedule or to order tickets. Advance tickets may also be purchased by calling 800-494-TIXS or 973-530-3444. For more information, contact Heather Sorkin at email@example.com
March 19, 2009
At first blush, Eyal and Rana make an unlikely couple. Eyal is a serious and thoughtful Israeli kibbutznik, who accidentally switches backpacks with Rana, an engaging, slightly flirtatious Palestinian from Paris, as they traverse Berlin on their way to the World Cup. Despite an initial wariness, both are on holiday and far from the conflict that helps define them, which makes it easier to become friendly.
From there, this chance encounter blossoms quickly (and almost predictably) into an improbable romance. The ceaseless troubles between their two warring tribes are easily eclipsed by infatuation and passion. Yet Strangers is more than another barrier-breaking love story — the film is a calculated effort to use a budding relationship as a parable for the heartache and difficult choices shaped by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
After spending an intense couple of days together in Berlin, Rana suddenly must return home and tells Eyal not to contact her: Despite the attraction, it would be impossible to maintain a relationship. Of course, he doesn’t listen and soon leaves for Paris anyway. But even after he locates Rana, she is steadfast in her decision. Until she needs his help: Her asthmatic, five-year-old son is taken to the hospital, where she is betrayed by a nurse who calls the police after learning Rana is an illegal immigrant.
Detained at a police station, she desperately calls Eyal, who has an easy way about him and agrees to retrieve her son from the hospital. After the mother and child reunion, Eyal and Rana resume their affair.
The story doesn’t end there, however. The backdrop, after all, is the 2006 war with Lebanon and a few fleeting scenes from the battle flash across the screen. The underlying tension that characterizes the earliest parts of the film is suddenly overwhelming. The war disturbs them both, although they largely avoid discussing it. At that point, the film takes a peculiar turn: Rana takes Eyal to a coffee shop, where she’s agreed to meet some friends who are planning a demonstration against Israel. Eyal will have none of it. After an argument with Rana’s friends, he leaves the cafe. For her part, Rana tongue-lashes her friend and runs after him.
In this way, Eyal and Rana come to symbolize the frustration, rage, and confusion over the greater situation. They both regret the hostilities and want them to end so they can live together in peace. Yet they clearly have differing views about who is right, who is wrong, and how to respond to the turmoil. As the days go by, this is underscored by a phone call Eyal gets from home: He has been called up for military service.
Juggling feelings of worry, anger, and sadness, Rana tries to convince him to stay with her. She reminds him that she gave up her friends for him and attempts to persuade Eyal that the war is not only unjust but that he could be killed. The decision weighs heavily on Eyal, who feels torn between innate loyalty to his country, growing ambiguity toward the intractable Mideast conflict, and his feelings for Rana.
Their love story is compelling enough to leave the viewer shaking his or her head at the difficult choices confronting and shaping the young lovers as they attempt to reconcile their differences and yearnings. And despite their feelings for one another, they recognize that it is possible to fall in love and yet remain strangers due to existential events they can’t control.
Ed Silverman is a veteran journalist who has regularly reviewed films for New Jersey Jewish News.