“The Holy Land” offers an occasionally fascinating look at the complex social, religious and political dynamics that help define the sacred city of Jerusalem. However, the film’s central coming-of-age theme involving the inner conflict between a young rabbinical student’s religious convictions and his desire to experience the forbidden lures of the secular world isn’t nearly as involving. Nevertheless, pic is a fairly assured and culturally intriguing item that could attract a measure of interest at fests and in niche slot.
Director-writer Gorlin’s first film appears to be a semi-autobiographical work. American raised, Gorlin was on the fast track for the rabbinate until he enrolled at the U. of Pennsylvania and began exploring secular ideas and filmmaking. Similarly, the film’s sheltered Mendy (Oren Rehany) leaves his orthodox family in Tel Aviv to expand his horizons in Jerusalem, which is compellingly captured by Gorlin. Mendy falls in love with the prostitute Sacha and befriends a loud-mouthed bar owner and his Arab pal and business partner. It’s a curious and somewhat unlikely alliance, since the inherently shy and spiritual Mendy seems ill suited to this boisterous bunch.