Posted by Danielle Berrin
I'm not sure a Hollywood blog has any business writing about Yeats but I came across the most wonderful poem. And I've seen a fairly good movie about Keats, "Bright Star" (with the wonderful, wonderful Ben Whishaw), so I'm hoping an artistic concern with one poet might extend to them all. Anyways, there's probably a movie about Yeats I haven't seen since his romantic life was certainly cinematic -- "personal melodrama on an epic scale," The Atlantic once called it. He proposed to his great love Maud Gonne four times; though she refused each one. And when they finally consummated their relationship one night in Paris, it did not go well. He later married the much younger Georgie Hyde-Lees, with whom he had two children, and though she knew of his affairs, she was fiercely loyal: "When you are dead," she once wrote, according to Terence Brown's "The Life of W. B. Yeats: A Critical Biography," "people will talk about your love affairs, but I shall say nothing, for I will remember how proud you were."
I actually think this poem, "Ephemera" is well suited to Hollywood, land of many fleeting things, but enduring dreams.
'Your eyes that once were never weary of mine
Are bowed in sorrow under pendulous lids,
Because our love is waning.'
And then she:
'Although our love is waning, let us stand
By the lone border of the lake once more,
Together in that hour of gentleness
When the poor tired child, Passion, falls asleep:
How far away the stars seem, and how far
Is our first kiss, and ah, how old my heart!'
Pensive they paced along the faded leaves....
Autumn was over him: and now they stood
On the lone border of the lake once more:
Turning, he saw that she had thrust dead leaves
Gathered in silence, dewy as her eyes
In bosom and hair.
'Ah, do not mourn,' he said,
'That we are tired, for other loves await us;
Hate on and love through unrepining hours.
Before us lies eternity; our souls
Are love, and a continual fairwell.'
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October 31, 2012 | 2:02 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
Actor Brandon Tabassi, 23 and raised in Massachusetts, won his first break playing a minor role in Ben Affleck’s critically acclaimed “Argo,” about the 1979-81 Iranian hostage crisis. At a recent Shabbat dinner, Tabassi revealed that he has Iranian-Jewish roots and a snazzy resume in politics. In a subsequent interview, he talked about the importance of empathy, what acting and politics have in common, and what puzzles him most about his former governor, Mitt Romney.
Jewish Journal: “Argo” tells the story of a CIA rescue of six Americans hiding out at the home of the Canadian ambassador in Tehran during the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis; in the movie you play a young Iranian soldier who carries out orders from the mullahs. In real life, you are a born-and-bred American with Iranian-Jewish roots. As an actor, how do you empathize with a character who probably would have caused you harm?
Brandon Tabassi: I imagined my character was a secular 18-year-old kid who returned from boarding school in Europe and wanted to join the cause of freedom for Iran. When the ayatollah came, he duped everyone — he very specifically said he would not have a hand in government. It was a time of mass chaos and mass confusion, and I imagined my character had gotten himself into something he thought was a movement for democracy and freedom, then found himself in the middle of something he didn’t understand.
JJ: So, in your view, a young Iranian at that time might have had the best of intentions, but out of naiveté wound up executing the agenda of very brutal Islamic leaders?
BT: I have to play the humanity of a character. He was looking to make Iran a better place and probably didn’t know that for the next 33 years his country was going to take a dramatic step backward.
JJ: At 23, you’re just starting your acting career. How did it feel to work on a film so early on that is also so closely tied to your family history?
BT: It was mind blowing to me — being on set at the Mehrabad airport in 1980 [filmed at L.A./Ontario International Airport], and in Hancock Park, where they filmed the Canadian ambassador’s home scenes, I got to experience a Persian home in 1970s Iran that was styled very authentically with Persian things: Persian carpet, Persian paintings, Persian chinaware. What I love about acting is that you get to live many different lifetimes in one lifetime. When I left on my last day [of shooting], I wrote Ben [Affleck] a thank-you note that said, “Words can’t convey what this experience has meant to me,” because I have feelings about it, but right now I can’t explain them in words.
JJ: The opportunity to work with Ben Affleck is a pretty coveted position for an industry newcomer. What kind of director is he?
BT: Ben is all about performance. He’s a perfectionist. And he treats everybody like gold; when he refers to somebody, he says, ‘This gentlemen’ or ‘this lady.’ He is a class act, and the experience of working with him reaffirmed what I had been brought up being taught — that those things really do matter.
JJ: Before you came to Hollywood, you started a career in politics. At 16, you worked as a page for Sen. John Kerry and later served as his aide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC). What was that like?
BT: As Kerry’s page, I spent 11th grade living in Washington. If I wasn’t with a group of people, I had to have security on me at all times; at night, I’d be walking down the street with Capitol police escorting me. I woke at 5 a.m. every day, went to school from 6 to 8 a.m. in the basement of a government building and went to bed at midnight. When Kerry was in charge of the SFRC, I would greet high-profile visitors. I did that for Leon Panetta, [then]-director of the CIA, and the foreign minister from Afghanistan. He said to me, “The future for both of our countries is going to be very bright.”
JJ: You also formed a relationship with Sen. Ted Kennedy, who served as a mentor to you.
BT: Kennedy wasn’t the friendliest person, but he was the kindest human being I ever met in my life. He’d always come over to me on the Senate floor and explain what was going on: He explained the Supreme Court justice system, the importance of not overturning Roe v. Wade, because, you know, there were two vacant seats at the time.
JJ: If you could teach people one lesson about American political culture, what would it be?
BT: What I learned from politics and government is that the world is run by human beings. People equate politicians with robots; they talk like they’re these big entities, big machines, but [government is made of] organizations run by people for people.
JJ: Hollywood and Washington have an unusual long-distance relationship, sort of like distant cousins. Having seen the inside of both, what do they have in common?
BT: Politics is one of the only mediums that allows a person to stand up for another person who can’t stand up for themselves. But because of the level of visibility of acting, if you become successful, you can get behind a cause. Acting is also an opportunity to empathize with different human beings, and once you understand how [people] make the decisions they do, you become a better leader.
JJ: Is that why you ultimately ditched politics for performing?
BT: This blessing of acting allows me to get in other people’s hearts and souls. To be good in public service, you have to understand how other people think and how other people love.
JJ: Since you’re from Massachusetts, I wonder if you have any thoughts about your former governor, Mitt Romney.
BT: Mitt Romney is a good family man. He’s been pretty successful in life, but I think that what he forgets is that his father started with very humble roots, and his father was able to become what he became through the help of many people and through God’s blessing. Also, it was during his term as governor that the universal health-care law passed in Massachusetts, so for him to come back and criticize Obama’s health-care initiative, to me, was a little bit questionable.
JJ: “Argo” is already getting Oscar buzz. On the hypothetical chance you get to attend, what will you wear, and who will you take?
BT: If they’re nice enough to invite me — and that’s a big if — I am somebody who lives in a small studio [apartment] the size of [Henry David Thoreau's] cabin on Walden Pond; I own five shirts, five shorts and two pairs of jeans. I’ll probably go out and rent a tuxedo that doesn’t cost more than my rent, and of course I’ll take my mother, because if it wasn’t for her, not only would I not have gotten the film, I would not even be alive.
October 26, 2012 | 4:02 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
I've always considered myself a Madonna fan. When I was growing up I admired her sexual courage, her unapologetic pushing-of-the-envelope. It made a lot of sense in an atmosphere of confusion and repression surrounding women's sexuality in America.
But her recent stunt, performed in Los Angeles no less, to make some kind of anti-Taliban statement by stripping to her skivvies and revealing the name, MALALA tattooed on her back, as a flimsy protestation against the gunning down of the 15-year-old Pakistani girl-activist, is strange and silly to be sure, but also deeply insensitive and downright stupid.
Just because sexual audacity may challenge the politicization of women's bodies and their rights here (see: Lena Dunham wearing shorts), does not mean that kind of resistance is effective elsewhere. Especially, for instance, in places like Pakistan, where wanton violence perpetrated by extremist insurgents against women is the norm, and the risk posed to women for such egregiously offensive provocations, like, for example, blogging about equal rights, far outweighs the danger posed to Madonna for stripping on a Hollywood stage. Here, Madonna makes a mockery of authentic political resistance.
Correct me if I'm wrong, but in 1980s America, very few women were in danger of being shot in the head for standing up for their rights, and certainly Madonna was in even less danger when she decided to try and hitchhike from a Miami Beach street while in the nude. But then, she is a master of self-delusion, turning the pornographic for pornography’s sake into a pseudo-philosophical point.
Since Madonna has been world-touring since the beginning of her career, she should know that cultures are different from one another. Affiliation with a group is based on distinction and difference. The U.S., to her shock, is not Pakistan. And what passes for culture shock and rhetorical opposition here is wildly irrelevant there. According to Leon Wieseltier, Madonna's stunt was an act of “pseudo-blasphemy” because no one would deny her ability to use sexual provocation as a political weapon here, in the land of the free. Doing so, as Wieseltier put it, is a "cheapening of the currency of dissent" (though he referred more directly to the classic Madonna deed of writhing-on-the-religious, as when, during her anti-Catholic days, she would "twist her flesh torridly over the altar.")
Instead of her intention to critique or dissent, Madonna's stunt only served to further stoke Taliban rage, and allowed them to co-opt the musical seduction (she strip-teased to her 90s hit "Human Nature") into ammunition for more disapprobation and hatred. Or, if her aim was to demonstrate her solidarity with Malala, she could have just called.
But as she makes clear in her song, she’s not sorry.
October 25, 2012 | 11:32 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The world would still hold pain. As Tablet's Liel Leibovitz points out in this worthy read on Cohen:
To go to a Doors concert was to stare at the lithe messiah undressing on stage and believe that it was entirely possible to break on through to the other side. To see Cohen play was to gawk at an aging Jew telling you that life was hard and laced with sorrow but that if we love each other and fuck one another and have the mad courage to laugh even when the sun is clearly setting, we’ll be just all right. To borrow a metaphor from a field never too far from Cohen’s heart, theology, Morrison, Hendrix, Joplin, and the rest were all good Christians, and they set themselves up as the redeemers who had to die for the sins of their fans. Cohen was a Jew, and like Jews he believed that salvation was nothing more than a lot of hard work and a small but sustainable reward.
The Jewish messiah, it turned out, was a gaunt poet with a guitar who promised not to whisk us away to some other, better world but to teach us how to come to terms with this one.
I'm looking forward to seeing Cohen live for the first time in early November. Indeed it was his sad, shattering poetry that lured me in. His sound is almost beside the point; the music is in the deep, rich, fractured harmonies of his life. Such as in this excerpt from "I Long To Hold Some Lady," a story of loss and longing:
Alas, I cannot travel
To a love I have so deep
Or sleep too close beside
A love I want to keep
But I long to hold some lady,
For flesh is warm and sweet.
Cold skeletons go marching
Each night beside my feet.
October 25, 2012 | 10:18 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
If I had seen “The Forsyte Saga” before I met Damian Lewis a few weeks ago, I might have followed him round the party all night. I would have asked him how he got so good at playing bad, or as the New York Times put it, "another repressed villain demented by love and loss."
The British-born actor is better known in the U.S., of course, for his role as Sergeant Nicholas Brody on Showtime's "Homeland," for which he recently won an Emmy. But his performance in “The Forsyte Saga” is also deserving of the highest praise (I suspect it helped him snag the "Homeland" role). He is one of those chameleon actors, all method, method, method, bringing complexity and complication to his characters. Best of all, he is unafraid of being vile. As Soames Forstye, a maniacally oppressive aristocrat who is driven mad by love, Lewis makes him impossible to like but easy to pity.
Without getting into details of the 10-hour miniseries, here's a snapshot from The Times, which published a review of the series the day Lewis won his "Homeland" Emmy, noting its U.S. release was timed to capitalize on Lewis's newfound fame:
His Soames Forsyte — like Brody, his character on “Homeland” — is driven by a cause he believes is just and evokes sympathy for his torment if not his misguided actions. An uptight man of property, Soames grimaces his way through an evolving London as if enduring a nasty toothache. Gina McKee was Irene (pronounced eye-REE-nee), a chilly swan-necked beauty who marries Soames for his money but openly despises him, driving him to despicable behavior.
Meanwhile the rest of the sprawling Forsyte clan — like the one on “Downton Abbey” — wallows in rivalries, resentments and opulent houses, struggling to adapt as the sun sets on the British Empire.
All this fuss about "Downtown Abbey" (which I like) and "Upstairs Downstairs" (which I haven't seen) is almost charming when "The Forsyte Saga" is blazing hot drama. Based on a series of early 20th century and semi-autobipgraphical novels by John Galsworthy, "Forsyte" follows the travails of one upper-class British family over several decades, with the requisite births, deaths, scandals, illnesses, war and romance in between. Plus there is art and opera along this absorbing and authentic journey which takes a very sophisticated view of how relationships evolve over time. It is simply one of the most compelling pieces of television I've seen and I don't usually gush like this!
What struck me most about this story was how profoundly it captured the journey of a human soul. Characters grow in this story. They evolve. They start as one thing and while they don't exactly transform, they get better. They face their demons. Relationships begin and fail, then, deepen and change. Love doesn't always last. Loneliness soaks up years. The disreputable are powerful. The good suffer. Pretty appearances sometimes belie the torments that linger underneath. Hearts are hardened. Duty prevails. Love is rarely smooth but knotty, hard-won and dangerous. But in the end, it is the most enduring of human emotions.
Anyway I liked it. It was just like life. Well, my life anyway.
October 24, 2012 | 2:59 pm
Posted by Danielle Berrin
At her memorial service in the summer of 2011, they called her “a mother in a man’s world.”
It seems an apropos epitaph for the late producer, whose gift for making movies was fueled by the same bottomless ardor that marked her mothering. Ziskin wasn’t one of those women who “sacrificed it all” for her career; she had her cake — and a daughter, too.
It is often said of Ziskin that the qualities that made her one of the industry’s most vaunted producers — of fare like “Pretty Woman,” “As Good As It Gets” and the blockbuster “Spider-Man” franchise — were the selfsame qualities that made her a steadfast mother. In an industry of unstable sorts, Ziskin solidly parented. On Saturday nights when she couldn’t meet agents to sip spirits and talk properties at the Polo Lounge, she’d scour women’s magazines for more obscure titles or devise new story ideas herself.
It was often said she had impeccable instincts.
She knew, for example, that she had breast cancer before her doctors did. For five or six years before her diagnosis, Ziskin kept finding lumps and having mammograms. The doctors would tell her things were fine and send her home. “Eventually she started having things that if you have them, you should rush to the doctor’s office,” Julia Barry, Ziskin’s daughter, told me during a phone interview last week. “She knew something was really wrong.”
Barry, at the time, was a junior at Sarah Lawrence College and studying abroad. She finished out her year in London, at her mother’s request, though reports from home were dismal.
Ziskin had asked for an MRI; her insurance refused. But one benefit of a blockbuster is you can afford to pay out of pocket. With her “Spider-Man” money, Ziskin got to buy a cancer diagnosis: Stage 4 lobular breast cancer, which Barry described as “a growing, lacy network of cancer” right around the veins where breast milk comes through. Instead of new shoes, a “very massive tumor,” “an unheard-of number of lymph nodes affected.” Instead of summer vacation, a double mastectomy, chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant.
Early on, one oncologist, Barry remembers, “basically looked at her like she was going to die.”
Once, she was the Pretty Woman “nobody could say no to.” She told The Hollywood Reporter that although she had never read a comic book, she won the “Spider-Man” project by imploring Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal to “just give me the biggest motherf----r you have.” Then, illness struck, and “nobody felt like we were going to come out of this,” Barry recalled.
But if there’s anything the movie business teaches, it’s lessons in fortitude. Ziskin brought her hard-charging career qualities to her cancer fight, a war she waged for seven years. “She became very lifestyle-focused,” Barry said, “changed her diet, practiced more yoga.” But for a Jew who had relaxed her Jewishness after her father died, spiritual sustenance didn’t come as easily: “There were some attempts at meditating,” Barry admitted, but “she was always saying she was a really bad meditator.”
Perhaps Ziskin inherently knew that some injustices can’t be quelled with quietude on a mountaintop; that they must be boldly battled in the world. An action producer by nature, Ziskin felt that one of cancer’s evils was the lack of cohesiveness within the medical community, with new treatments held hostage by competitive researchers and doctors stymied by bureaucracy from administering the best possible care.
“When people are dying, you can’t just sit around and have ego wars over whose paper is getting published,” Barry said.
So Ziskin co-founded Stand Up To Cancer, a nonprofit that encourages collaborative research in the development of cancer cures. It would be one thing to fight the disease in her body, quite another to fight an imperfect medical system. She enlisted the support of entertainment pals like Sherry Lansing and Katie Couric to launch the organization, which, along with her movies, became her living legacy.
“She wanted to stop the cannibalization of body parts,” Barry said. “Part of the problem in the scientific community is that people tend to work in silos, but they’re finding that mechanisms of cancer may be able to tell things to each other.”
For a woman used to owning her femaleness wholesale, “The gendered part of breast cancer frustrated her,” Barry said. Cancer is cancer, was how Ziskin saw it. It knows no gender; it consumes human cells. So while some women worry that breast cancer compromises their femininity, perhaps their very identity, Ziskin’s cancer awakened her to the indiscriminate torment of all cancers. “She was much more focused on what she could do to solve this problem for other people.”
That was the Ziskin way. Misfortune didn’t change her; it restored her to her essence: “She had an unwavering character, a drive, an unwillingness to compromise, an ability to collaborate. What she was able to do as a philanthropist and an activist was just an extension of what made her really great as a producer.”
But wherever there’s a Jew, there’s irony. Ziskin deplored the cliché about cancer being a good thing that has the potential to catalyze transformation. “She felt adamantly that this had not changed her, but all of us who were very close to her can look back and say, ‘Well, actually, it did.’
“If she were able to look back” — and had her life been about movies alone — “I think she would feel a little bit empty,” Barry said.
It wasn’t cancer that changed her. It was her aggressive, defiant, determined and hopeful response to cancer that intensified who she already was.
October 23, 2012 | 10:47 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
If you want to know what’s it like to be Steven Spielberg, there are three ways to intuit his psyche: 1) have a panic attack; 2) have a row with a parent; 3) feel shame over some aspect of your identity.
Because, at least according to a recent 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl, those are the defining forces of Spielberg’s life, the vehicles that have driven his ambition, animated his movies and helped him evolve into an ostensibly well-adjusted adult.
Well, sort of.
“You’re a nervous wreck,” Stahl suggested at the beginning of the 13-minute segment which aired Oct. 21.
“Yes, it’s true,” Spielberg said coyly. “It’s much more of an anticipation of the unknown... it’s just kind of a level of anxiety having to do with not being able to write my life as well as I can write my movies.”
Ah, the perennial problem of the artist: How to reconcile the artist’s soul, with its depth of feeling and profound understanding, with ordinary human life. As countless writers have proclaimed (and they would know since many consider themselves artists), artists are sometimes simply unfit for life. In his essay on the evolutionary benefits of art (if there are indeed any), Adam Kirsch quotes from Nietzsche, who coined the pithy phrase “Art dangerous for the artist.”
It is more than that one’s art can be all-consuming, but that an artist has a certain temperament and certain cravings that conflict with societal standards.
According to Nietzsche’s “Human, All Too Human,” the artist craves excitements and danger, “believes in gods and demons, imbues nature with a soul, hates science, becomes unchangeable in his moods like the men of antiquity” and therefore finds himself at odds with others and inevitably dies in sadness.
But Spielberg is smarter. He told 60 Minutes he copes with existential angst by telling stories -- though he admitted it doesn’t quite abolish the affliction: “Well, it’s commercial,” he said, invoking Hollywood’s capitalistic upside. “I don’t want to lose it.”
Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona, Spielberg said he considered his mother, Leah Adler, a “big sister” and his father, Arnold, a workaholic. When they divorced, he blamed Dad (“I did pin it on him,” he said). Years later, his anger towards his father was expressed in his work and many of his subsequent movies featured disappointing or absent fathers. “E.T.” he said, was an attempt to tell a story about his parents’ divorce. But it would be years before he’d learn the truth: that it was really his mother who fell in love with one of her husband’s friends, because she was oh “so unhappy” (Arnold forgave her, he told Stahl, because he was “in love with her”).
But the demons of distant Dads and divorce had implanted themselves in young Spielberg, and so invested was he in the original dad’s-at-fault narrative, he admitted: “Even after I knew the truth I blamed my Dad.”
For the artist, easier to tell a story than surrender one.
“Even though my mother was like an older sister to me, I kind of put her up on a pedestal,” Spielberg said. “For some reason it was easier for me to blame [my father] than someone already exalted.”
Even a Hollywood icon needs an idol.
The gentlemen Spielberg eventually reconciled and the director then made movies painting fathers as heroes. “I stayed angry for too long,” Spielberg said, lamenting the “many, many wasted years” he and Arnold were estranged. By the time of their reconciliation, he had learned a thing or two about facing demons -- his movies, by gosh, were full of them: sharp-toothed sea creatures and extinct clawed-carnivores come to mind -- and through his work, he was able to expurgate the long-held family narrative that stifled his soul. For the creator of brave characters, helplessness would not do.
Spielberg would also have to contend with another source of deep shame -- his Jewishness. Having grown up in “an all non-Jewish neighborhood,” as his mother described it, Spielberg felt like an outsider. “People used to chant, ‘The Spielbergs are dirty Jews,’” Adler told Stahl. “And one night, Steve climbed out of his bedroom window and peanut-buttered their window.” Throwing her head back, she added, “which I thought was MAR-velous.”
Stahl asked Spielberg how he dealt with such “anti-Semitic attacks.”
“I denied it,” he said.
“Denied what? That you were Jewish?” Stahl asked.
“... My Judaism,” Spielberg affirmed.
“Were you ashamed?” she continued.
“Um-hm. I often told people my last name was German, not Jewish,” he said. “I’m sure my grandparents are rolling over in their graves right now hearing me say that, but I think that, you know, I was in denial.”
You can guess what he did when he overcame that plight: he made a little movie called “Schindler’s List.”
With “Schindler,” he explored one of the darkest blights on human history; with his next film, “Lincoln,” he illuminates another dark period -- the era of slavery and civil war in the United States -- but concerns himself mostly with its happy ending. “Lincoln” is not about the degradations of slavery, but Abraham Lincoln’s resolve to end them. His dogged pursuit of congressional approval to end that injustice is the movie’s primary focus, though it bespeaks its larger theme about the conflicting motives of one man.
“It’s about leadership and about telling the truth... about how you feel,” Spielberg said. “He was living with two agendas and I think there’s darkness in there.”
It’s difficult to hear him say this without wondering from whence it comes. Perhaps it is evidence of Spielberg’s psychological sophistication, the way he has worked to integrate his artist’s soul with his “ordinary” life (he has long been married to the actress Kate Capshaw and has six children) that he is able to extol the virtues of emotional truth. In Lincoln, he sees a great man whose soul was bound up in confusion.
If once he felt a similar discord, Spielberg seems to have found his footing. He has learned to live with the past without letting it beset him and found fulfillment in work and in life. Though it is exceedingly rare, he is both the artist who creates and the man who can love.
October 18, 2012 | 10:37 am
Posted by Danielle Berrin
The film by French writer-director Lorraine Levy is the most moving tale I've seen about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in recent memory. It is not so much about the conflict, however, as the story it tells exists within it, illuminating the profound religious and geopolitical issues that complicate the region. This film can (and likely will) be talked about.
It tells the story of two sons, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, accidentally switched at birth. They come of age in disparate worlds.
Yosef is raised in a beautiful Tel Aviv suburb where he moves freely about in a world that is open to him. He spends his time courting girls, playing the guitar and drinking with friends around bonfires at the beach. His father is a commanding officer in the Israeli military and his family enjoys status and respect. His little sister plays with dolls and his mother wears flowy summer dresses and maybe even fantasizes about other men.
Yosef is Jewish.
Yacine lives in a remote West Bank town and has just returned from Paris, where relatives have taken him in so he can study to become a doctor. He must obtain papers in order to pass through a checkpoint and cross the border in and out of Israel. His family is poor; meat is a luxury. His father is a mechanic and a broken man. His older brother is aimless, angry and rebellious, and spends his time with other discontented teenagers who seem on the brink of destruction. Yacine's youngest brother was killed. His mother is sensitive and soulful, but scarred. She does her best to placate miserable men.
Yacine is Palestinian Muslim.
And then one day he is not.
At 17, Yacine discovers he is really the biological child of Israeli Jews. And from the perch of privilege, Yosef has to face his ties to life inside the territories.
After years of studying at a yeshiva and becoming a bar mitzvah, Yosef's rabbi tells him he is not a Jew and must convert. He becomes a kind of stranger to his mother. His blood is not her blood.
Both mothers love the children they have raised but deeply yearn to know the other son they carried.
The film raises some of the most complex questions about identity and belief a person can encounter. At times it makes you squirm with discomfort, as it forces you to confront hard questions. Impossible questions: What if you had been born on the other side of everything you think you know? What if, but for the grace of God, you were born into another race, another class, another religion? How would you know yourself? How would you relate to your family? Can seventeen years be undone in an instant?
The Other Son seems to be asking: How flimsy are the labels we use to define ourselves, and how powerful the biological bonds that reside within us? What makes a person who they are -- nature or nurture? Is the human heart so bound up in blood, no other love can compare?