Traditional coming-of-age films like A Borrowed Identity don’t often come from Israel, which is one of the film’s points. There, youth is fast-forwarded away, especially if you’re an Arab, like gifted child Eyad (Razi Gabareen), burdened with adult tasks — cutting deals at local stores, fixing the TV antenna up on the roof. For the teen Eyad, Israeli director Eran Riklis uses the empathetic Tawfeek Barhom as the family’s hope to break in to the professional classes. Eyad’s dad (Ali Suliman) was imprisoned for protesting in his student years, dooming his chances.
But now Eyad has been accepted into a prestigious all-Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem in the late 1980s, a potential lock on a better life. Earning the respect of his classmates, though getting their giggles at mixing up his B’s and P’s, Eyad still faces dangers, including a forbidden border-crossing of the emotions in a hidden romance with a self-possessed fellow student, Naomi (Danielle Kitzis).
But the more intriguing relationship is between him and another “outsider”: student Yonatan (a wry performance by Michael Moshonov), who has muscular dystrophy. Demonstrating their shared alternative sensibility and friendship, Eyad explains who’s coming to dinner: “Mom, I brought my Jew.”
As in the director’s The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree, the tilt here is toward the underdog. Especially with its taboo-breaking stunner of a finale, political purists may balk at what might have been called Passing: For Palestinians.
A Borrowed Identity
Directed by Eran Riklis
Opens June 26, Lincoln Plaza Cinema