Berlin-based sales outfit M-Appeal has acquired world sales rights to “Concerned Citizen,” the sophomore title from Israeli writer-director Idan Haguel. The film was selected Tuesday to have its world premiere in the Panorama section at next month’s Berlinale (Feb. 10-16).
The film, which stars Shlomi Bertonov and Ariel Wolf, centers around Ben, a politically liberal, gay man who tries to improve his neighborhood in the slums of south Tel Aviv by planting a tree on his street. This triggers a sequence of events that results in him getting mixed up in the brutal police arrest of an immigrant. The guilt trip that ensues challenges Ben’s self-image and threatens to destroy his relationship and aspirations of fatherhood. A satirical parable on the insidious ways in which privilege can unleash the prejudice within.
“The story is told with an undertone of wry humor throughout,” M-Appeal said in a statement, “as the film navigates the complexities of discrimination, depicting characters who strive to maintain an open-minded, liberal exterior, but who are ultimately intolerant and selfish in their actions. Prevalent issues such as xenophobia and gentrification are also delicately illuminated in an educated, tongue-in-cheek fashion, by the up-and-coming Haguel.”
This will not be the director’s first trip to the Berlinale as his debut feature film, “Inertia,” premiered internationally at the 2016 Berlinale in the Forum section. In 2017, he was invited back after being selected to participate in their talent development program, Berlinale Talents. He has also worked as a journalist and scriptwriter for Israeli television and released several acclaimed short films.
“Concerned Citizen” is a personal film for Haguel, who not only directed but also wrote and produced the feature alongside co-producers Gil Sima, Binyamin Gurevitch, and Itay Akirav. He stated that: “The film was shot in the apartment where I lived for many years, in south Tel Aviv, and I wished to remain truthful to the atmosphere and events that take place in the area. Although the film focuses on gay characters, it does so to reflect the bourgeoisie elements of the community in Tel Aviv, to tell a story about LGBTQ characters from a different angle. It is not necessarily about love or coming out, but about a world where gay characters, who are normally the victims – become the victimizers.”
The director said the film could be described as “a white guilt trip dark comedy of a ‘gentrificator'” whose experience living alongside Eritrean refugees forces him to discover “unpleasant aspects of his character that he didn’t know existed.”
He added: “The film is told from the protagonist’s white and privileged point of view. The satire also comes from that same point of view. It was important for me not to pretend and take righteous ownership of the refugees’ perspective – who are outside the inner world of the protagonist.”
M-Appeal managing director Maren Kroymann added: “‘Concerned Citizen’ is a beautifully crafted story, which approaches ideas of guilt and social issues in a thought-provoking and unique way.”
Haguel is producing alongside Gil Sima, Binyamin Gurevitch and Itay Akirav. The film is supported by the Rabinovitch Film Fund.