French films look at the personal and political in Israel and Africa

Mehdi Dehbi as Yacine in The Other Son

L’Oreal French Film Festival
Until April 24 

Two of the films in the current French Film Festival deal with contemporary political issues from a very personal point of view. One is set in Palestine/Israel and the other in central Africa.

Lorraine Levy’s film The Other Son (Le Fils de l’Autre) follows the disruptions of the lives of two families and, more particularly, two young men when Joseph gets a routine blood test for his military training with the Israeli Army.

He doesn’t have the same blood groups as his parents, which causes some distress, but eventually the family discovers that he was inadvertently swapped at birth with a Palestinian who now lives with his family in the West Bank.

The film raises questions and issues around what constitutes race, ethnic identification and how these are regarded by families and the young men.

It also examines the differences between Palestinian and Israeli cultures as the families travel between Tel Aviv and the West Bank, encountering different living conditions and political environments.

The problems of where each boy should live, what they are ethnically, culturally and religiously are never resolved, but it highlights the problems of any solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Jule Sitruk (Joseph) and Mehdi Dehbi (Yacine, the Palestinian) give brilliantly low-key performances in which they often withhold emotions, adding significantly to the drama.

Canadian film maker Kim Nguyen’s War Witch (Rebelle) is an extraordinary tale highlighting the bleak prospects of Africa and involving Komona, a 14-year-old girl who is plucked from her village by local freedom fighters.

Her initiation requires her to kill her parents – an act she repeats on her best friend. Her life is one of despair and  much of the time relieved only by the status given her as a witch, because it is believed she can see ghosts and army soldiers in the forest.

The story and the life of Komona is a metaphor for Africa today with its senseless wars, drugged child soldiers and rich lives lived in relative poverty.

Rachel Mwansa gives a heart-wrenching and deeply moving performance as Komona, managing to portray a young woman coming to terms with the realities of a brutal adult world.

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I have been contemplating the Palestinian issue for many years and believe that nothing at all can be done because it's a matter for Israel and the Arab League to resolve. I am convinced that all major events in the area have been initiated or vetoed by the League playing a shadow but central role. Consider: the 1948 rejection of Statehood, the invasion, the defeat, the revenge by ordering 850,000 Jews out of ten Arab countries and the expropriation of land equal to four Israels. The unexpected rejection of negotiated peace time after time. The League is convinced that Palestine discontent is the ultimate weapon for future successes in acquisition of Muslim ideological conquest everywhere.

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