For some, life in the cosmopolitan Israeli city of Tel Aviv can be a lot like living inside a bubble: With its nightclubs, cafes and boutiques, it's easy for young, progressive Israelis to feel happily disconnected from the political realities that are literally tearing their country apart. And inside that bubble is exactly where Noam (Ohad Knoller), a twentysomething record-shop clerk, wants to be, particularly after his month-long tour of duty as an Israeli army reservist ended with a traumatic incident at a West Bank checkpoint. Detained by Israeli soldiers, a young Palestinian woman (Dorin Munier) went into labor and gave birth to a still-born baby. On his first night home in the Tel Aviv apartment he shares with his roommates -- Yali (Alon Friedmann), the manager of a trendy restaurant, and Lulu (Daniela Wircer), an aspiring fashion designer whom Yali calls the "Israeli Carrie Bradshaw" -- Noam is visited by Ashraf (Yousef Sweid), a young Palestinian man whom Noam recognizes from the checkpoint. Ashraf has Noam's ID card, which he dropped in the confusion of the moment, but he's also come for something else -- Noam. The attraction is mutual and before long they become lovers, but the situation is complicated. Ashraf, a resident of the West Bank town of Nablus, is in Israel illegally; if he's caught without a permit he'll be arrested and returned home. And home is the last place Ashraf wants to be: Homosexuality is still a taboo topic in devout Muslim families, and neither Ashraf's parents nor his sister, Rana (Ruba Blal), have any idea that he's gay. In fact, Ashraf is fully expected to marry a cousin of his Rana's fiance, Jiahd (Shredy Jabarin), a leader with the radical Arab group Hamas. Ashraf's predicament gives Lulu an idea: Ashraf will go by the more Israeli name "Shimi," Yali will get him a job as a waiter as his restaurant, and they'll try to pass Ashraf off as a nice Israeli boy for as long as they can. Unfortunately, bubbles are very easily burst, particularly in a politically volatile country like Israel.
"I really love Tel Aviv," Yali announces after a long, drug-fueled night at a "Rave Against the Occupation" beach party. "It's a shame it's surrounded by crap." That "crap" is the reality of life in contemporary Israel, and no matter how apolitical or removed one may feel, the grim facts of the security wall, suicide bombings, bulldozers, mortar attacks and ever-escalating reciprocal acts of violence eventually touch every life. Fox brings this point home by forcing a convergence of sexual and geo-political oppression in a dramatic finale that is sure to start an argument among even the most simpatico moviegoers. Hampered by relatively uninteresting subplots involving Yani's and Lulu's love affairs, the film may not entirely succeed as a work of art, but like WALK ON WATER and JOSSI & JAGGER (2002) before it, THE BUBBLE makes a point well worth considering. leave a comment --Ken Fox
Israeli director Eytan Fox follows his international hit WALKING ON WATER (2004) with another controversial drama, this time involving a love affair between two men, one Israeli, the other Palestinian.