×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Rock the Casbah

Set in the Gaza Strip circa 1989, at the height of the first Intifada, war-is-hell drama "Rock the Casbah" illustrates the futility of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

With:
With: Yon Tumarkin, Yotam Ishay, Angel Bonanni, Roy Nik, Iftach Rave, Khawla Alhaj Debsi. (Hebrew, Arabic dialogue)

Set in the Gaza Strip circa 1989, at the height of the first Intifada, war-is-hell drama “Rock the Casbah” illustrates the futility of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While this first feature from helmer Yariv Horowitz is impressive in terms of generating tension and intensity, the script fails to offer something viewers haven’t seen before — from Israel or the rest of the world. The United King release will roll out on home turf Feb. 21, but outside of co-producer France, fests and the Jewish-interest circuit will provide the strongest platforms.

The action kicks off as a company of raw young recruits reports for duty in Gaza, where a macho commander (Angel Bonanni) and a grizzled officer of a higher rank remind them of the rules of engagement. Their assignment is to “restore order” by quashing any obvious sign of rebellion they see while policing the streets; soon after they start their patrol, they run into a group of rock-throwing youths.

When a washing machine pushed from the top of a building kills one of the soldiers and the perpetrator escapes, the commander taps four of the others for surveillance duty on the rooftop. This boring, uncomfortable assignment proves distressing to the troops, but even more so to the aggrieved Palestinian family that lives in the building below.

As time lags on, the anxious, confused, sometimes trigger-happy soldiers are unsure how to handle the taunting kids who gather in the street below, and the Palestinian family rightfully fears being branded as collaborators. To borrow from the Hebrew, the chaos and feeling of impending fiasco constitute balagan.

When the pic’s focus shifts to the four men on the roof, their defining characteristics and subsequent actions start to register as cliches. In the screenplay co-written by Horowitz and Guy Meirson, clean-cut, quiet Tomer (Yon Tumarkin) is the sensitive one; crude Haim (Iftach Rave) provides some cheap humor with his bellyaching about food and digestive disorders; hothead Aki (Roy Nik) is always ready to fight and continually defies Ariel (Yotam Ishay), the pot-smoking team leader who has only a few more weeks to serve.

Even so, in contrast with classic Israeli war films, the script refuses to idealize the Israeli Defense Forces or demonize the rock-throwing Palestinians. It focuses instead on the soldiers’ human needs and desires (some good food, sleep, a toilet) and their fears. Likewise, the Palestinian family, albeit sketchily drawn, is depicted as both human and humane.

There are a few scenes with a critical bite, such as when Tomer tries to visit an army psychologist who claimed to be available to the soldiers who witnessed the death of their colleague during their first day of duty, but she closes the office before he returns. Further such irony and black humor would have been welcome. Still, the final scene, which depicts Tomer’s company pulling out and new recruits marching in to take their place, epitomizes the conflict’s seemingly endless cycle.

Quick cutting and show-offy lensing attest to the helmer’s background in commercials and musicvideo, and lend the film a youthful edginess. The title comes from one of the songs the soldiers play loudly on the radio to drown out the call to prayer coming from the neighboring mosque.

Rock the Casbah

Israel-France

Production: A United King release in Israel/Shellac Distribution release in France of a Topia Communications, United King Films, 13 Prod. production in co-production with Arte France Cinema, with the support of the Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts Cinema Project, Channel 10 Israel, Hed Arzi Publishing, Israel Fund for Film Production, the Cultural Administration, Israel Ministry of Culture and Sport, Israel Film Council, Region Ile-de-France with the participation of Arte France. (International sales: Films Boutique, Berlin.) Produced by Michael Sharfshtein, Moshe Edery, Leon Edery. Co-producers, Adam Leibovitz, Paul Saadoun, Cyrille Perez, Gilles Perez. Directed by Yariv Horowitz. Screenplay, Guy Meirson, Horowitz.

Crew: Camera (color, HD, widescreen), Amnon Zalait; editor, Isaac Sehayek; music, Assaf Amdursky; production designer, Ariel Glazer; costume designer, Inbal Shuki; sound (Dolby 5.1), Michael Legum, Jean Christophe Jule; sound designer, Gil Toren. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Panorama), Feb. 8, 2013. (Also in 2012 Jerusalem Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 93 MIN.

With: With: Yon Tumarkin, Yotam Ishay, Angel Bonanni, Roy Nik, Iftach Rave, Khawla Alhaj Debsi. (Hebrew, Arabic dialogue)

More Film

  • FX's 'Snowfall' Panel TCA Winter Press

    John Singleton Hospitalized After Suffering Stroke

    UPDATED with statements from John Singleton’s family and FX Networks John Singleton, the Oscar nominated director and writer of “Boyz N’ the Hood,” has suffered a stroke. Sources confirm to Variety that Singleton checked himself into the hospital earlier this week after experiencing pain in his leg. The stroke has been characterized by doctors as [...]

  • 'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow

    'Curse of La Llorona' Leads Slow Easter Weekend at the Box Office

    New Line’s horror pic “The Curse of La Llorona” will summon a solid $25 million debut at the domestic box office, leading a quiet Easter weekend before Marvel’s “Avengers: Endgame” hits theaters on April 26. The James Wan-produced “La Llorona,” playing in 3,372 theaters, was a hit with hispanic audiences, who accounted for nearly 50% [...]

  • Jim Jarmusch in 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    Film Review: 'Carmine Street Guitars'

    “Carmine Street Guitars” is a one-of-a-kind documentary that exudes a gentle, homespun magic. It’s a no-fuss, 80-minute-long portrait of Rick Kelly, who builds and sells custom guitars out of a modest storefront on Carmine Street in New York’s Greenwich Village, and the film touches on obsessions that have been popping up, like fragrant weeds, in [...]

  • Missing Link Laika Studios

    ‘Missing Link’ Again Tops Studios’ TV Ad Spending

    In this week’s edition of the Variety Movie Commercial Tracker, powered by the TV ad measurement and attribution company iSpot.tv, Annapurna Pictures claims the top spot in spending for the second week in a row with “Missing Link.” Ads placed for the animated film had an estimated media value of $5.91 million through Sunday for [...]

  • Little Woods

    Film Review: 'Little Woods'

    So much of the recent political debate has focused on the United States’ southern border, and on the threat of illegal drugs and criminals filtering up through Mexico. But what of the north, where Americans traffic opiates and prescription pills from Canada across a border that runs nearly three times as long? “Little Woods” opens [...]

  • Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping

    Beyonce's Netflix Deal Worth a Whopping $60 Million (EXCLUSIVE)

    Netflix has become a destination for television visionaries like Shonda Rhimes and Ryan Murphy, with deals worth $100 million and $250 million, respectively, and top comedians like Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle ($40 million and $60 million, respectively). The streaming giant, which just announced it’s added nearly 10 million subscribers in Q1, is honing in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content