CLOSE TO HOME (Dalia Hager, Vidi Bilu). 94 minutes. Subtitled. Opens Friday (May 18). For venues and times, see Movies, page 113. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Smadar and Mirit are 18. Theyre out of the house, chasing boys, forming strategic alliances, feeling either over-confident or out of place, both happy and miserable. Sounds like the typical first-year university experience, except these girls arent coeds. Theyre soldiers patrolling the streets of Jerusalem.
Mirit (Naama Schendar) is the goody-goody. Smadar (Smadar Sayar) is the troubled rebel. Both new to the service, they're assigned to "register" Palestinians who pass through their sector. Some of the women in their company hate doing this; some dislike authority on principle. Aside from the commanding officers, we never see anyone who deeply believes in the job, which might have provided a more interesting contrast than Mirit's timid obedience, or at least added a layer to the story.
The military is subject to fetishizing and mythologizing in every society, but it has a special significance in Israel, where it's a cultural, familial and legally mandated tradition.
Directors Dalia Hager and Vidi Bilu don't puncture the myth any better than other filmmakers, but they give it a new context, new protagonists and some disturbing details, like rookies who lack any means to communicate with their superiors when things go horribly, horribly wrong.
If for no other reason, see the film for its final sequence, which will haunt you long after you leave the theatre.