Tel Aviv on Fire, about two men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, separated by a border but united by a soap opera, plays the Salmar Classic on Oct. 26. (Photo contributed)

Coming soon: Soap opera provides common ground in Tel Aviv on Fire

Cinemaphile by Joanne Sargent

Our next movie, Tel Aviv on Fire, shows that it’s possible to find humour in the midst of a cultural conflict.

The film is about two men, one Israeli and one Palestinian, separated by a border, but united by a soap opera.

Yes, a soap opera.

Tel Aviv on Fire is not just the movie’s title, but also the name of the popular Palestinian soap opera around which the satire revolves. The soap is a melodrama based on a love triangle involving a beautiful seductive spy and her divided loyalties to an Arab freedom fighter and an Israeli general (Yehuda), whose affections she’s trying to win and thereby infiltrate Israel’s military.

Despite it’s pro-Palestinian slant, the television show is popular with both Palestinians and Israelis.

Salam is Palestinian and has no qualifications to work in TV, but is fluent in Hebrew and hired by his uncle (the producer) to tweak the Hebrew dialogue on the show. Salam’s daily commute to work takes him through a West Bank checkpoint, where he’s questioned by Assi, an Israeli military officer whose wife is a fan of the show, who tells Salam it’s too unflattering to its Israeli characters. On Salam’s daily visits to the command post, Assi gives him story ideas and advice on Yehuda’s character. The commander’s flair for creative drama means Salam gets promoted to writer and the two adversaries continue to secretly collaborate, concocting plot twists to suit viewers of both sides. But tensions flare when Assi and the show’s Arabic sponsors disagree on the show’s ending and Salam is torn. What to do? Like a good soap opera, it has a perfect cliffhanger ending.

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Tel Aviv on Fire is thoughtful, funny and political without hitting you over the head with it. Voted best film at the Seattle International Film Festival, it impresses that creativity can trump ethnic conflict and perhaps the two men from opposing sides have more in common than not.

Tel Aviv on Fire shows twice on Saturday, Oct. 26 at 5 and 7:30 p.m. at the Salmar Classic Cinema. And don’t forget to keep Nov. 1-3 open for our Reel Weekend Film Festival.


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