AKA: Sof Shavua B’Tel Aviv
Year Released: 2008
Distributor: Film Movement
Running Time: 100 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 13+
Related Films/Series: N/A
For Fans Of: Paradise Now, God’s Slave, Man of the Year (Brazilian film)
-The main character who plays Tarek will be addressed as Shredi Jabarin instead of Shredy Jabarin.
-Shredi Jabarin has played Jesus Christ in the movie called The Savior.
Oh, boy. Here comes another controversial film that I’m covering, but I’m getting used to it. There are times where directors wonder what it’s like as a character that would obviously be a villain be portrayed as an anti-hero or as a sympathetic villain protagonist. There’s certainly some bravery in portraying people one shouldn’t like. This film fits that category and it definitely wouldn’t be the first Israeli film directed by a guy who’s first name is Dror that has controversial content (the other movie is Atomic Falafel, for those scoring at home).
For My Father is about a Palestinian man named Tarek Rana who’s down on his luck, but that would be a massive understatement. He reluctantly agrees to be a suicide bomber to clear his family’s name and goes over to Tel Aviv, Israel to blow people up in a populated part of the city. Tarek tries to detonate the bomb, but the button becomes nonfunctional. With no way back into Palestine, he decides to work for a Romanian-Israeli man named Katz to fix the leak in his roof while also becoming friends with the ostracized Keren who was shunned by the Orthodox Jewish community in the city. In the span of forty-eight hours, he has to decide whether he should let everyone live and possibly die at the hands of the terrorists who set him up (they have a mobile detonating switch back their country) or kill people while erasing Tarek’s family’s reputation.
This was certainly an uncomfortable movie to watch, yet I was shocked by how well they humanized Tarek. He starts out as a reluctant bomber only to find the kindness in some of the people in Tel Aviv. He also had a bad situation ever since he was a child which unfortunately lead up to this critical juncture in his life. It was a situation that was surprisingly believable, but there are times where his kindness is put to the test by others. Keren is someone who sees the good in Tarek while being oblivious to the reasons why he came to Tel Aviv to begin with. She was shunned by the Orthodox community for being a loose woman and not adhering to the creeds. She also has a tragic backstory which is mentioned in passing which makes her sympathetic despite some of her questionable choices. I also enjoyed seeing Katz. At first, I thought he was going to be some insane and crotchety old man, but he turned out to be a very realistic character. He has severe PTSD after losing his son who served in Israel’s military, but he doesn’t blame it on any of Israel’s enemies though. It was heartwarming seeing a Jewish/Muslim friendship between the three of them and it was so close to reaching the levels of Arranged (not a perfect film, but that was a major strong point nonetheless) as they work together or hang out together. There’s also Shaul who is just despicable. He is extremely racist against Arabs yet claims to be in denial. He even calls Tarek “Ahmed” to his face and constantly harasses him. Despite claiming that all Arabs are violent because of their genes, he’s way too eager to beat up and even kill Tarek alongside the Orthodox men who bully Keren. The situation between several of these characters (especially Tarek) become heightened as the time passes over those fateful two days.
For My Father had such potential despite the controversial plot, but the aims taken didn’t always hit the target. I thought the title didn’t have as much impact as much as the director wanted to. Yes, Tarek’s father plays an important role in his backstory and his goals, but I would’ve liked to seen some scenes of them bonding back in Palestine. The father becomes more of a plot device than an actual character himself. There’s an argument to be made about Keren’s own daddy issues given her strict religious upbringing, but he’s a literal non-presence and that should’ve been developed. Then there was the ending. Oh, boy was that tragic for the wrong reasons. I will not spoil the ending for you, but I personally felt that it was rushed during that climactic finish and I wished I could have changed the whole thing. The implications of the ending would prove some characters right. I kind of foreshadowed the gloom after Tarek’s conversation with the soccer talent scout for the Nazareth team, but the ending ruined a good portion of this film which had a promising, albeit very controversial premise into something of a whimper for me.
This Israeli film could’ve been so much better with the execution of the entire story. The cinematography was nice even though there was an abundance of sepia color grading going on. The music fit the mood in each scene and was appropriate. I also really liked the friendship that Tarek had with Katz and Keren even with the jerks like Shaul around or by seeing a “Death to all Arabs” graffiti in the street. This had the potential to have been at least an eight or a nine with me, but the ending really diminished my final score. In a weird way it was like Law Abiding Citizen for me. Both of these films had a very promising concept, but the execution of the story at large and having a bad ending really halted my full approval of this film. While For My Father wasn’t terrible for me, I certainly was disappointed since this film could’ve been greater.
Adjustable Point System:
Add 1-2 points if you like movies with anti-heroes or villain protagonists.
Subtract 2 points if you really feel uncomfortable with morally confused protagonists.
-The relationship with Tarek, Keren, and Katz (until the ending)
-Katz’s character arc
-Missing character development opportunities with Tarek and Keren’s respective fathers
-Plot holes abound
-The ending is a huge letdown.
Final Score: 5/10 points
Content Warning: Teens and up. There’s some swearing and the violence can get rough. Keren’s backstory does involve promiscuity that leads to a personal tragedy in her life that also causes her to be shunned. The big controversy is the fact that Tarek was sent to be a suicide bomber. Even though the button doesn’t work when he first arrives, I know people can feel very uncomfortable as he battles with the choice of either killing or sparing the Israelis he meets.
All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. For My Father and all related terms and names are property of Dror Zavahi. The DVD cover is from Film Movement.