'Room 514'

When a young, idealistic Israeli military investigator confronts an elite officer with accusations of unnecessary violence against a Palestinian man in the Occupied Territories, her integrity and determination are put to the test in "Room 514."

When a young, idealistic Israeli military investigator confronts an elite officer with accusations of unnecessary violence against a Palestinian man in the Occupied Territories, her integrity and determination are put to the test in “Room 514.” A triumph of low-budget filmmaking, tyro helmer Sharon Bar-Ziv’s tightly scripted drama transforms its financial limitations into assets, as the eponymous interrogation salle becomes the intimate locus for verbal battles highlighting the universal conflict between moral human values and acute security needs. This provocative Film Movement pickup should see theatrical play in urban areas, as well as Jewish fest and home-format action.

Russian emigre Anna (Asia Naifeld) is nearing the end of her Israeli Defense Forces service as a military police investigator. Ambitious and eager to prove herself within this predominantly masculine environment before going on to law school, she refuses to close the case brought by the Palestinians against the aggressive Samaria Wolves unit, even though Erez (Ohad Hall), her commanding officer and sometime lover, cautions her to drop it because “it’s political” and could backfire and hurt her future.

Needing more than the complaint from the Palestinian family, Anna persuades the initially reluctant Sgt. Nimrod (Guy Kapulnik) to report on the behavior of his company commander, Davidi (Udi Persi). Summoned for questioning, the arrogant Davidi chafes under Anna’s authority, yet his concern for his men and love for his country come through along with his belief that he is above the law. “As the commander, I exercised my professional discretion in a violent area in a dangerous situation,” he sneers.

Repping a microcosm of Israeli society, Bar-Ziv’s screenplay, which in certain respects recalls “A Few Good Men,” makes notable use of stichomythia for its thrust-and-parry dialogue. “A true fighter doesn’t snitch,” says Nimrod. “A true fighter knows the difference between black and white,” answers Anna.

While the heightened dialogue and relatively simple staging could also work in a live theater context, Bar-Ziv emphasizes the cinematic aspects of the pic’s other location, the bus Anna rides home from the office. Helmer also includes expressive black-and-white sequences with eerie, theremin-like soundscapes that seem to rep the stress Anna is under.

Pic was shot in just five days after intensive rehearsals. Thesping by the small cast is aces all around, with spot-on use of body language. Handheld, close-up lensing by Edan Sasson mirrors the intensity of the action.

Room 514

Israel

Production

A Film Movement (in U.S.) release of a Cinema Alpha Prods. production with the support of the Israel Film Fund. (International sales: Doc & Film, Paris.) Produced by Sharon Bar-Ziv, Michal Rubin, Bibi Arbel Rekhess. Directed, written by Sharon Bar-Ziv.

Crew

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen, DV), Edan Sasson; editor, Shira Arad; production designer, Tamara Gleser Shafran; sound, Michael Goorevich. Reviewed at Karlovy Vary Film Festival (Another View), June 30, 2012. (Also in Rotterdam, Tribeca, Cannes film festivals.) Running time: 88 MIN.

With

Asia Naifeld, Udi Persi, Guy Kapulnik, Ohad Hall, Rafi Kalmar, Hilly Israel. (Hebrew, Russian dialogue)

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