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“Tel Aviv on Fire” Comedy with a Twist





Review by John Delia

The film Tel Aviv on Fire is a comedy of sorts that entertains with a duel story. The acting is very good and so is the direction, but the very contrived storyline is a matinee soap opera that lacks brilliance. Not my cup of tea, the movie bounces around a bit too much and if you are not aware of the ethnic differences between Israel and Palestine, it may confuse.

Salam Abbass (Kais Nashif), a Palestinian living in Jeruselem is a single man who finally lands a job with the assistance of his Uncle Bassam (Nadim Sawalha) the producer of a popular TV Show titled “Tel Aviv on Fire”. The spy thriller/romance has followers on both sides of the wall, Israel and Palestine and women are avid fans that watch every episode.

Kais Nashif as “Salam” in TEL AVIV ON FIRE directed by Sameh Zoabi Photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group

At first Salam’s job is a gofer who gets coffee for crew, makes sure sets are in order and that the surroundings are what they should be. One day on set, Salam speaks up after one of the characters General Yehuda Edelman (Yosef Sweid) tells his beautiful companion Tala (Lubna Azabal) “You look explosive”. He says that no one would refer to a woman they admire as “explosive”. The play writer is upset that they would change her script, but she is overruled by Bassim in favor of Salam’s suggestion and he makes Salam the Production Assistant.

After work, Salam must travel across the checkpoint to Jerusalem where he lives. At the checkpoint he’s brought before Captain Assi Tzur (Yaniv Biton) the Israeli commanding border officer. After finding out that Salam is writing the scripts of “Tel Aviv on Fire” he gives him advice on how the Israeli General should react. But, in order to easily cross over to Jerusalem he must make changes in the script so the Israeli General Yehuda Edelman becomes the hero. So beings a pact between Salam and Assi with the Captain taking control of the production from afar.

Lubna Azabal as “Tala” in TEL AVIV ON FIRE directed by Sameh Zoabi Photo courtesy of Cohen Media Group

The film has many intentional prat falls in this situation comedy under the control of Director and co-writer Sameh Zoabi. Since it plays out in Arabic and Hebrew (with English Subtitles) the film gets a little too ethnic and sometimes confusing at times. Maybe I am not schooled enough on the Arabic and Hebrew customs and that would probably have caused some of the problem. What was probably funny ethnically, may have gone over my head as I became bored at times watching the film.

Tel Aviv on Fire has not been rated by the MPAA but does contain some language. The subtitles are nicely displayed and easy to read. Youngsters may get very bored with the dialogue and be bothered by the kissing scene.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A film that probably played well in Israel and Palestine, but fails to deliver here in the USA. (2.5 out of 5 stars).

Additional Film Information:
Cast:  Kais Nashif, Lubna Azabal, Yaniv Biton, Maisa Abd Elhadi, Nadim Sawalha
Directed and co-written by:  Sameh Zoabi
Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance, Foreign
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains language
Running Time: 1 hr. 37 min.
Opening Date: August 23, 2019
Distributed by: Cohen Media
Released in: Standard, Color. In Arabic and Hebrew with English subtitles.

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