“A Borrowed Identity,” this month’s presentation in the Jewish Film Series, is a modern Romeo and Juliet story laced with political implications. Director Eran Riklis shows how even the deepest emotions can be torn apart by centuries of fighting.
This is told through a sweet and occasionally heartbreaking performance by Tawfeek Barhom as Eyad, a Palestinian Israeli boy given the chance to attend a prestigious Jewish boarding school in Jerusalem. The work is difficult but not nearly as challenging as Eyad’s efforts to be part of his new world.
Help in making the adjustments comes in two areas. Eyad becomes friends with Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), a boy suffering from muscular dystrophy. What starts out as a forced relationship becomes brotherly love as Eyad eventually moves into the home Yonatan shares with his mother, Edna (Yael Abecassis).
Watching the two young men form a bond sparked through music is both sweet and powerful. The director uses how Yonatan is treated to show that it’s not just your place of birth that can make you an outcast.
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The heart of “A Borrowed Identity” has Eyad falling in love with Naomi (Danielle Kitzis), a Jewish girl. They initially hide their love but finally make the decision to go public. This does not sit well with Naomi’s parents, and she’s not allowed to return to school.
Riklis drives how divided this world is when Naomi reveals to Eyad that her parents would prefer her to be a drug addict or a lesbian than to be told she’s dating an Arab. This is a powerful point of view fostered by the volatile nature of the region that is strong enough to shake what appeared to be a solid romantic relationship.
Eyad’s love for Naomi leads to a decision that changes his life forever, especially with his parents. It’s a choice that comes back to haunt him in so many ways.
The film has an interesting structure that starts with a young Eyad lovingly embracing his culture. He even finds great pride in the idea that his seemingly dull father could have, at one time, been a terrorist. The constant culture clashes and the pain created because of being from a different world eventually changes Eyad to the point that he is willing to hide the identity he once embraced so deeply.
One reason the emotional elements ring so true is that the story was written by journalist and author Sayed Kashua. He based the script on two of his own semi-autobiographical books dealing with Kashua being an Arab who went to a Jewish boarding school.
“A Borrowed Identity” works both as a love story and as a political commentary. Riklis blends them to make one strong story about how even the kindest heart cannot complete with a long history of conflict.
All offerings in the series are shown at Temple Beth Israel, 6622 N. Maroa Ave. Tickets for the 7:15 p.m. Saturday screening are $8. This is one of the four deli nights on the series schedule with the menu being soups and pizza. You must make reservations at least 24 hours in advance for deli items. Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 559-285-0013 to make advance reservations.