Newscasts and op-eds tell us plenty about the headache and heartache of the relation between neighboring and intermingled Palestinian and Israeli communities and the sporadic efforts to bring a solution to a problem that doesn’t have any good one. But we know less about Israel’s Arabs, second-rate citizens who actually live in the country.
Keren Yedaya’s “Jaffa” uses this context to tell us the story of the doomed love of a young couple. She, Mali, sensitively played by Dana Ivgy, is Israeli and pregnant, getting ready to elope with the love of her life; that would be Tawfiq, an Arab mechanic who works in her father’s auto shop. Lording it over all concerned is Mali’s brother, an unsufferable spoiled brat not a bit cowed by his parents’ constant admonitions to get a life. (Ronit Elkabetz, unforgettable in “The Band’s Visit,” plays the mother). Tensions, subtly developed, lead to a terrible incident that will tear apart the whole fabric, disrupt every plan and unleash emotions. Years later, an epilogue brings the message that some kind of hope can come out of utter hopelessness.
The characters are drawn with such simple realism and so little flourish that watching them is almost like eavesdropping on the family next door. The matter-of-fact cinematography and a lush score by Shushan—that some found too emotional—make “Jaffa” well worthy of having been selected for the Cannes Festival (not in competition).