Miss Entebbe

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict as seen through a child's eyes and set in 1976, "Miss Entebbe" is an affecting if finally unsatisfying drama of families under fire. Tough enough to raise important issues, pic -- which won a special mention at this year's Berlin fest -- sufficiently pulls its punches to be safe for programming at children's fests.

With:
With: Merav Abrahami, Igal Naor, Meyrav, Meyrav Gruber, Yael Abecassis, Odelia Segal, Adnan Tarabshi, Odi Atman, Eliyah Yakin, Alon Oleartchik, Itamr Glucksmann, Michael Glucksman.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict as seen through a child’s eyes and set in 1976, “Miss Entebbe” is an affecting if finally unsatisfying drama of families under fire. Tough enough to raise important issues, pic — which won a special mention at this year’s Berlin fest — sufficiently pulls its punches to be safe for programming at children’s fests. Worth a close look for cable buyers, too.

Right after 12-year-old tomboy Noa (striking Merav Abrahami) and her friend Dany (Eliyah Yakin) see the latter’s mom (Yael Abecassis) off on a plane trip to Paris, the flight is hijacked and taken to Entebbe. Event sends the many kids living in their crowded Jerusalem apartment into an emotional tailspin.

Noa’s already keyed up, since her brusque dad and too-often bedridden mom (cast standouts Igal Naor and Meyrav Gruber) seem to be at odds with each other. So she and the others let off steam at Nayim (Odi Atman) young son of the local Palestinian gardener (Adnan Tarabshi).

When the boy bumps his head in one-sided roughhousing, the preteens panic and carry an unconscious Nayim back to Dany’s empty apartment. Then Noa gets the bright idea of holding the Arab boy ransom until the Entebbe hostages are released.

Highlight comes when Noa tries to take her proposition to then-prime minister Yitzhak Rabin, and to a popular TV reporter. But not enough is made of these outsized gestures, and when they lead nowhere, the story gets a bit shaky.

Nayim breaks free, finally, but then decides to keep hanging around Noa and her pals anyway. Can’t-we-all-just-get-along finish rings right, emotionally, but knowledge of the way events have panned out gets in the way. Bigger problem is the boy doesn’t speak the same language as the other children, which undercuts any sense of confrontation or communion that the pic is going for.

In other respects, though, California-born Omri Levy, a first-time feature maker here working on a shoestring with other recent grads of Jerusalem’s Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, shows estimable skills, especially in his handling of a largely preteen cast. Rough, sun-bleached look resembles ’70s indie fare, and uneasy mood is goosed along by electric guitar-based score from Alon Oleartchik, who also has a small part.

Miss Entebbe

Israel

Production: An Aspamia Films (Jerusalem) production, in association with Sam Spiegel Film & Television School. (International sales: Cinephil, Tel Aviv.) Produced by Yoav Roah. Executive producer, Renen Schorr. Directed by Omri Levy. Screenplay, Dana Schatz, Levy.

Crew: Camera (color), Gabriel Wagon; editors, Ayelet Ofarim, Amit Azaz; music, Alon Oleartchik; production designer, Jonathan Twito, Azaz; costumes, Orly Ronen; sound (Dolby), Sharon Luzon; sound designers, Gil Toren, Elana Grushken; casting, Tal Granit. Reviewed at Seattle Film Festival, June 11, 2003. Running time: 80 MIN.

With: With: Merav Abrahami, Igal Naor, Meyrav, Meyrav Gruber, Yael Abecassis, Odelia Segal, Adnan Tarabshi, Odi Atman, Eliyah Yakin, Alon Oleartchik, Itamr Glucksmann, Michael Glucksman.

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