For My Father, Old-School Social Melodrama (Plus Bombs)


Israel seems to have its own form of prestige cinema, where tortured suicide bombers and rending intergenerational conflict signal what period costumes and booming accents might to American viewers. While films like The Band’s Visit, Jellyfish, and Waltz With Bashir suggest a subtler, more psychologically directed path for Israeli film, Dror Zahavi’s For My Father is old-school social melodrama (plus bombs), all the way. Tarek (Shredi Jabarin) is a young Palestinian whose soccer career in Israel caused problems at home during the Intifada (which Intifada is never made clear). Terrorized by the Tanzim (a militant faction of the Fatah party), Tarek is persuaded to detonate himself in a Tel Aviv market in order to clear his family name. When the bomb fails to go off, Tarek is befriended by locals, including Katz (Shlomo Vishinsky), who lost his Israeli soldier son, and Keren (Hili Yalon), a runaway who rejects her parents’ Orthodox beliefs. After a conflicted weekend of blunt visual cues (following a tender moment with Keren, Tarek notices “Death to Arabs” on a nearby wall) and starchy exposition, Tarek must decide whether to complete his mission. Soaring tragedy and seven Israeli Academy Award nominations ensue.