It’s easier to admire Dan Wolman’s intent in making “Foreign Sister,” an agitprop about the evolving friendship between a bourgeois Israeli woman and an illegal Ethiopian resident, than to respect its execution. Technically pedestrian and made on an extremely low budget, pic recalls the socially relevant works of Ken Loach, with a touch of “El Norte”: It deals with the politics of Israel’s new underclass, estimated at over 300,000 foreign workers. This mildly engaging meller, co-winner of the 2000 Wolgin Prize for best Israeli feature, is not strong enough to play in first-tier festivals, but it should appeal to patrons of the Israel Film Festival, which tours American cities, and other Jewish venues.
Naomi, the 50-year-old protagonist, is an upper-middle-class woman who seems to have everything: a handsome husband and two adoring kids. First act suggests that the story may follow John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence,” showing Naomi on the verge of a nervous breakdown, collapsing under the burden of housework — and the need to be in control. Things change when Naomi hires Nigiset, a beautiful Ethiopian Christian, to work as a maid for her mother-in-law. The encounter between these vastly different women channels Naomi’s life in a new direction, exposing her to an underprivileged class. Unfortunately, Wolman’s flat direction accentuates the predictable course of his soft narrative.