Director: Arik Kaplun
Winner of ten Israeli Academy Awards, Arik Kaplun’s Yana’s Friends had all the makings to be a beautiful tragedy—a young, pregnant Russian immigrant (played by the director’s wife) finds herself abandoned in Israel by a husband who took out massive loans and returned back to Russia, leaving Yana to fend for herself at the start of the Gulf War in 1991. Instead and much to the surprise and delight of audiences, the film is funny, warm, and life-affirming as we watch Evelyne Kaplun’s adorable waif Yana (reminiscent of Audrey Tatou) bond with her new roommate Eli, a wedding videographer and aspiring filmmaker who gets more action than Warren Beatty did in his prime. The two opposites form a friendship that blossoms into something more as the tear gas and threats of bombings bring them closer together but it’s more than a simple love story. As the title promises, we get to know the other members of her building and community including a genuinely funny and bittersweet tale of an elderly wheelchair bound veteran and his family. The film is a fascinating work and offers a fresh take on a sad piece of recent world history by showing that the triumph of the human spirit can make anything bearable. Yana’s Friends has drawn raves in film festivals in America as well, winning the award for Best Foreign Film at Houston’s World Fest.