May 29, 2008
Los Angeles Israeli Film Festival put focus on social justice—and secrets
(Page 3 - Previous Page)
Maybe religious themes have replaced military themes in Israeli cinema lately, but that doesn’t do much for “Noodle,” a heart-tugger that’s more along the lines of “August Rush” than other Israeli films.
“Israeli cinema is filled with stories that are very political and very social and rightly so, because it’s so political and social here,” said “Noodle” director and co-writer Ayelet Menahemi. “I was interested showing normal people trying to live a normal life, or at least trying to deal with normal problems.”
Noodle is the nickname of a young Chinese boy (BoaQi Chen) who is left at the house of Miri (Mili Avital), a Tel Aviv flight attendant who had employed Noodle’s mother as a housekeeper. Miri’s life is complicated: She is twice widowed and understandably guarded as a result; she is also secretly in love with her brother-in-law, who is separated from her sharp-tongued sister Gila (Anat Waxman).
Menahemi also took some of her inspiration from real life—she had met a twice-widowed stewardess, had traveled to China and Israel deported masses of illegal foreign workers in 2000.
“The immigration police had to throw out 100,000 to 200,000 people a year, Menahemi said. “Because they were so eager to fill this quota, some really bad things were happening: You’d hear this stories about people hiding in closets and jumping out of windows and families being parted. Today, it’s much better.”
But Menahemi hasn’t made an “issues” movie like “What a Wonderful Place,” Eyal Halfon’s 2005 feature about foreign workers’ lives: “I’m not trying to make any social statements or any political statements. I’m trying to make a human statement, if at all.”
Menahemi said she was interested in how people deal with other people’s suffering. Although it seems like Miri is saving Noodle, he is also saving her from loneliness.
“By developing compassion and tolerance toward others, this is the only way to understand their own suffering and at the same time, transcend it,” Menahemi said. “That’s what I’m trying to say, when you help someone, you help yourself.”
Trailer: Noodle (Hebrew)
But that message, no matter how politically correct it might be, is problematic for marketing “Noodle.”
“It’s much easier to market movies about soldiers, about terrorists, about homosexual soldiers and religious people and social tensions, because these are issues that are very specifically Israeli and the world is interested in seeing that,” Menahemi said.
“People might say, ‘Why do we have to see normal people having problems in Israel? We can see that in independent American films,’” Menahemi said. “But when you get down to it, in most places in Israel—not Sderot—but in most places you find people leading normal lives. It’s about time that when people see Israeli movies, they realize that, as well.”