Film Movement DVD Review: For My Father (2008)

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In a film so unexpectedly beautiful it glows in its dominant golden tones that soak up everything in sight throughout, a tale unfolds – half-over before the cameras even began rolling – of a young man whose fate seems sealed in ugly, anonymous violence.

As a talented Palestinian soccer player forced to become a suicide bomber in order to save first his father’s reputation and then later -- when threatened -- his parents’ lives by detonating in the heart of Tel Aviv, actor Shredi Jabarin gives a heartrending performance in filmmaker Dror Zahavi’s seven-time Israeli Oscar nominated work, For My Father.

Dropped off in Israel and left for dead, either by his own explosive button or by remote detonation, Tarek (Jabarin) is in for a cruel twist of fate when his rudimentary nail filled vest fails to ignite and, upon discovering that a faulty switch is to blame, Tarek must wait until after Shabbat for the new part to arrive, spending forty-eight brutal hours among the people he’s been told are his enemies.

And in what at first seems like a Thomas McCarthy-esque Station Agent spin on Paradise Now and The Band’s Visit, relationships begin to formulate between Tarek and his temporary neighbors including, first an elderly shopkeeper named Katz (Shlomo Wishinski) who’s already lost one son to the conflict between the countries and secondly with the strong-willed Keren (Lemon Tree star Hili Yalon) who finds in Tarek a potential soul mate equally at odds with their communities.

While Father necessitates us to overlook the film’s near-fatal flaw that as a character Tarek looks so suspicious at all times that it’s hard to believe that -- given the televised alert to possible terrorist activity -- only one citizen dares to point a finger in his direction, if you’re able to ignore a few slightly convenient plot contrivances, Dror Zahavi’s arresting work is sure to find you quickly engrossed.

Anchored by sensitive portrayals by its charismatic lead actors, particularly in the form of the expressive, quietly introspective turn by Jabarin who must play everything close to his explosive vest and bolstered by some of the most boldly breathtaking, impressionistic cinematography (from lensman Carl F Koschnick) I’ve seen in a contemporary feature in a long while, For My Father is an arresting film I won’t soon forget.

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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.