The highly affecting “Foreign Land,” which won the 2018 Ophir Award (Israel’s Oscar) for best documentary, takes a personal approach to a vital subject that could also benefit from a more macro on-screen examination.
The film profiles Jewish Israeli journalist-filmmaker Shlomi Eldar (he also directed) and Arab Israeli actor Gassan Abbas, both of whom began to feel like strangers in a strange land as their native country became increasingly engulfed by extremism on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian divide. (Comparisons to America’s current state of discord are not lost on Eldar.)
This alienation caused Eldar to emigrate with his family to the United States, while Abbas moved from Tel Aviv to an Arab town in Galilee and continued to explore the problem through his art. Unfortunately, neither path helped these men feel at home in their own worlds. Abbas’ son, also seen here, experienced the same sense of isolation when he relocated to England after being beaten by Israeli police.
Eldar and Abbas share candid, heartfelt observations about what they consider an internal culture war within Israeli society and its troubling effects. Bits of archival news footage, including a painful report of the 2008 deaths of a Palestinian doctor’s three daughters during the Gaza War (his story would go on to become a stage play starring Abbas), round out this effective, if modestly-shot portrait.
In Hebrew, Arabic and English with English subtitles
Running time: 1 hour, 14 minutes.
Playing: Starts Nov. 2, Laemmle Town Center 5, Encino