Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Movie in the Making

The parking spaces in Wadi Salib, one of Haifa's poorest and most run-down neighbourhoods with a complicated history, were filled to the max today. Normally, the main attractions in this historic neighbourhood are the more recent government buildings and the numerous hummusiyot (hummus joints), each one of which has its own devoted followers.

But for the past few days, Avi Nesher, a well-known Israeli director, has been filming scenes here for his latest movie, גמדים (Dwarfs). According to one of the actresses, the film is about a boy from Haifa who time travels from the Second Lebanon War in 2006 to the 1960s, encountering various characters.
The filming took place at the flea market, which has preserved much of its original character. One of the sets built here is the above movie theatre, complete with a 'Bollywood' poster and actors dressed to look like teens from the 60s.
Locals get a close look at the antique car which is part of the props.

One of the young actors, between shots, looks like he is deep in thought. Behind him, part of the still-functioning Istiqlal Mosque is visible.

Even though Israel has become "Americanized" during the past couple of decades, the society has managed to hold on to a few of its fundamental characteristics. The kibbutz ideals of social equality and fraternity are still visible in many aspects of daily life. For example, Nesher's last two movies, סוף העולם שמאלה (Turn Left at the End of World) and הסודות (The Secrets), were big hits in Israel. It's impossible to even imagine an American director of the same relative stature hanging out and filming a movie literally "among the masses," with no visible security present and no roping off the area. Locals mingled with actors taking a break from shooting, due to the rain. I was free to wander onto the sets and examine props, some of them antique or near-antique items, and expensive film equipment, as closely as I wanted to.

Yet, it seems like many famous Israelis have a love-hate relationship with this quality of approachability/social equality. On the one hand, they love feeling "like a family" and being able to walk on the street undisturbed and live normal lives but are disgruntled because they know that, in America, they would be making oh-so-much more money and be treated with all the perks that come with being a celebrity there.

ADDENDUM: The movie was actually released with the title of "פעם הייתי," (English title: "The Matchmaker") rather than the original "Dwarfs."

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