NYFF Spotlight: Policeman
Posted by Jeffrey Bloomer on 9.28.2011
Why you should see it:
Nadav Lapid’s hot-button debut Policeman mines domestic unease within Israel, rather than the external conflicts that often consume it. It takes two tracks: it first follows an anti-terrorism officer and quintessential patriot who is very close to his unit, and then shifts focus to a domestic group of Jewish radicals who form a terrorist plot to bring a new vision of class harmony to Israel. Their paths cross before long. Gorgeously shot, Lapid’s unique, soberly observed vision probes the Israeli national psyche even as historic social protests erupted there in recent months.
Policeman won a special jury prize from the Locarno International Film Festival and won several prizes at the Jerusalem Film Festival, including honors for its cinematography and screenplay.
About the director:
A sure-handed, quietly stylish director, Nadav Lapid makes a vivid debut with Policeman. He endows his first feature-length film with a studied grace that suggests a seasoned filmmaker even as he tackles a complex tale of identity politics that hints at his fledgling ambition. A former journalist and novelist, he wrote the film’s screenplay as a resident at the Cannes Film Festival.
What the critics are saying:
Alissa Simon for Variety: "Policeman reps a strong debut from tyro helmer-writer Nadav Lapid, and will leave audiences debating the current social and philosophical issues it reflects. Further fest travel and niche arthouse play are in the cards for this Locarno fest competition entry."
Todd McCarthy for The Hollywood Reporter: "A boldly conceived and bracingly told political drama, Policeman (Hashoter) possesses a special contemporary pertinence in the wake of the recent massive protests relating to the vast class and economic disparities in Israel."
What the NYFF programmers say:
“Policeman is a film from Israel that already kicked up quite a discussion at the Jerusalem and Locarno film festivals, the last of which it won a special prize from the jury. It is also a kind of two-part film, like Sleeping Sickness. It starts out as a very stylized portrait of the machismo among an elite squad of Israeli police anti-terrorism unit, and you sort of see them, actually mostly in their personal lives and the relationships they have with each other, and with their wives and girlfriends. The second part of the film is about a terrorist cell that is made up entirely of Israeli Jews who want to create this kind of Communist-style revolution where they kill the rich and redistribute the wealth. Their plan is to take three billionaires hostage during a wedding ceremony and make their plans known to the public. Eventually, the two groups meet up, but the film sort of has as its central conceit the idea that there is a domestic tension within Israel, a social and economic inequality that has long gone under the rug because of the focus on the Palestinian situation, but that it’s now rising to the surface. Just as we were watching the film, and since we saw the film, articles about this very issue have been weekly appearing in the New York Times, that there is suddenly this rise of internal domestic strife in Israel among Israelis that has sort of been out of the spotlight for decades, but now is sort of becoming an issue, so certainly a film guaranteed to stir up a lot of talk. Very brilliantly filmed in a highly stylized way, widescreen, by a very promising young director.” —Scott Foundas, Associate Program Director