Female Empowerment Flick from Israel Out on DVD

By Karov la Bayit

DVD Review by Kam Williams

Close to HomeSmadar (Smadar Sayar) and Mirit (Neama Schendar) are typical eighteen year-old girls: a little boy crazy, obsessed with their appearance, and impatient to discover what adulthood will bring. But because they are Israeli, they have to put their plans for the future on hold due to the country’s policy of compulsory military service.

This means that they must spend their days in uniform on patrol in Jerusalem, a city ever on edge and just another suicide bomb away from being rattled to its very core. The task these new recruits are dispatched to handle sounds simple enough, namely, to stop anyone who looks like an Arab in order to search them and to ask for identification.

However, while Mirit is conscientious and is inclined to take her job seriously, Smadar is a slacker who could care less about the assignment, since she is very reluctant about being in the army in the first place. Nonetheless, the ill-matched pair are partners, and the stark contrast and simmering tension between the two is what supplies the cinematic texture to Close to Home, an engaging slice-of-life adventure which very effectively portrays the plight of young females on the frontlines of the war on terrorism.

It is fairly obvious at the outset that Smadar and Mirit are ill-equipped for the job emotionally. Yet, when the plot finally thickens after an explosion downtown,  the young heroines land right in the midst of the madness with bodies strewn all over the street, and must mature instantly to help handle the situation. Despite this harrowing specter of Arab-Israeli tensions, Close to Home remains, at heart, an uncanny coming-of-age examination of the different ways in which two young women adapt to circumstances beyond their control to survive a situation bigger than the both of them.

Excellent (4 stars)
In Hebrew and English with subtitles.
Running time: 99 minutes
Studio: Genius Products

Lloyd Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications around the U.S. and Canada. He is a member of the African-American Film Critics Association, the New York Film Critics Online, the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee, and Rotten Tomatoes. In addition to a BA in Black Studies from Cornell, he has an MA in English from Brown, an MBA from The Wharton School, and a JD from Boston University. Kam lives in Princeton, NJ with his wife and son.

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