July 19, 2007
New film shows love the Kurdish way
Nice Jewish boy in Brooklyn dumps domineering Jewish fiancée when he falls for lovely Kurdish Muslim girl. Parents and relatives on both sides are horrified, but are reconciled at raucous interfaith wedding.
That, in a thimble, is the plot line of "David & Layla," the umpteenth updated version of "Romeo and Juliet," or, if you will, "Abie's Irish Rose." (Why is it almost always Jewish boy and shiksa and not Jewish girl and goy? But never mind.)
What saves the film from triteness is the loving insight it provides into the joys and sufferings of the Kurdish people. The Kurds, like another Near Eastern tribe whose name slips my mind, seem to have been handpicked by their deity for endless miseries, but defiantly preserve their humor and high spirits.
The main purveyor of high spirits is Layla, who moonlights as an exotic but chaste nightclub dancer while awaiting deportation as an illegal immigrant.
Portrayed by Shiva Rose, a smashing beauty of mixed Irish and Persian parentage, one wonders what she sees in the rather nebbish David (David Moscow), but go figure love.
David's parents fall somewhat short of the Jewish ideal. Despite his many infirmities, father Mel pursues rather weird sexual adventures, at home and away. Mother Judith may be the last Jewish maternal stereotype who, when informed that a friend's son has an Oedipus complex, utters, "Oedipus, schmoedipus, as long as he loves his mother."
Of course, the path to the altar is not without obstacles. We won't talk about David's vasectomy, which he underwent at the urging of his ex-fiancée, but we do have to face the sensitive issue of conversion.
Who of the two should convert to the other's faith? Layla makes the, I guess, sensible point that if she converts "I have to jump into a pool and follow 613 laws," while all David has to do is repeat once "Allah is God and Mohammed is his prophet."
Fortunately, since David has already been circumcised, that problem is out of the way.
All such niggling aside, if the goal of Jay Jonroy, the film's writer, director and producer, was to give Americans a glimpse into the lives of his fellow Kurds in a painless lesson, he has done a fine job.
Jonroy is a Kurdish refugee from northern Iraq, who fled the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein, some of whose atrocities are briefly depicted in the movie.
In many respects, judging from "David & Layla," Kurds are not unlike Jews in their hospitality, love of food, vigorous wedding dancing, and various mishegoss.
Scattered throughout the countries of the Near and Middle East, some 35 million Kurds have longed for centuries to establish their own country, but it remains a far-off dream.
"David & Layla" opens July 20 at Laemmle's Music Hall in Beverly Hills, Fallbrook 7 in West Hills and One Colorado in Pasadena as well as Regal's Westpark 8 in Irvine.