Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Barfly' Meets 'Casablanca' in Mideast Film

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'Barfly' Meets 'Casablanca' in Mideast Film

Article excerpt

Director Eitan Gorlin is fond of the Jewish saying that everything in Judaism can be understood on 70 levels. And it shows in his debut film, "The Holy Land," which opens in Boston Friday.

" 'The Holy Land' is, on the outside, a simple coming-of-age story, but one that comes loaded with a range of sociological, theological, and political problems expressed through the eyes of Mendy, an Orthodox rabbinical student who falls in love with a Russian immigrant prostitute.

The pair meet at Mike's Place, a bar owned by an American war photographer where Jews, Arabs, gun-happy settlers, and Eastern European immigrants meet against a backdrop of live music and political upheaval. Mike's Place, a real bar where Gorlin worked in 1993, is the classic dive - think "Barfly" meets Sarajevo.

Because Gorlin shot the film at the end of 1999, a relatively peaceful time, he and his crew concentrated on less often explored, internal subjects, such as labor workers and immigrants. The result is an endearing, dark portrait of after-hours Jerusalem and the people who inhabit it - perhaps a more realistic view of this country than normally seen in fiction.

"People kind of project their own beliefs and experiences on a place that they've never been to or have visited for two weeks," Gorlin said in a telephone interview, "but Israel is today the people who live there. ... They [laborers, immigrants, Orthodox Jews, Arabs] are all part of the mosaic of Israel."

From yeshivas to U-Penn

For Gorlin, who comes from an Orthodox American family and attended conservative yeshivas in the US and Israel, another goal of the film was to explore the idea of boundaries - religious ones, philosophical ones, political, and geographical ones.

Like his character, Mendy, Gorlin has done his share of intellectual - as well as geographical - boundary crossing. …

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