Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Movies: The Bubble

Yali, Noam, and Lulu are twenty/thirty-something Israeli flatmates in this latest look at the Israel/Palestine problem. The three are not unlike American Indie/Yupster youth; Yali manages a small, hip restaurant, Noam works at a record store and listens to bands from London, and Lulu works at a soap store (Sabon, it seems, if you know it), although she's an aspiring clothing designer. Yali and Noam are both gay, and while serving mandatory military duty at the Nablus checkpoint, Noam meets Ashraf, a young gay Palestinian man who quickly thereafter comes to Tel Aviv to stay with the three. After a few jealous sparks from Yali (who quickly finds his own sort-of boyfriend, the beefy, hunky, ethically-questionable Golan), the four settle in as a tightly knit set of friends, working to promote their Rave For Peace, to take place out on the beach, while Lulu deals with her own relationship issues.

Things are beyond difficult for Ashraf, though, whose family does not (and can not) know about his sexual orientation. His sister is engaged to the militant, bearded Jihad, who is meanwhile pushing Ashraf to marry his cousin (a nice enough woman, except that she's a woman). Yali has gotten Ashraf a job in the restaurant, and he is living in Tel Aviv under the assumed (Jewish) name Shimi. When someone at the restaurant asks if he is Palestinian, he panics and returns to Nablus without telling his new friends. Home for the wedding, Ashraf comes clean to his sister, who cries and coldly tells him that he is just confused. Lulu and Noam sneak into Nablus with a cute, hair-brained scheme to find Ashraf, but when they do connect, Jihad sees Ashraf and Noam kissing passionately. He agrees to keep the secret, so long as Ashraf goes through with his marriage to the unsuspecting cousin.

And now, things get worse. Violence, of course, is ever-present in Israel/Palestine, and a few small incidents have already occurred, but Ashraf overhears Jihad speaking to someone about a Tel Aviv bombing on his cell phone, and it's in retaliation for that bombing that the next day, the day after the wedding, an Israeli Jeep pulls up to the family's home in Nablus and shoots Ashraf's sister—Jihad's new bride—dead. In the midst of mourning, Ashraf finds Jihad about to record his suicide video, and volunteers to take his place. He returns to Tel Aviv, where he stands in front of the restaurant, and sees Noam (who is waiting for take-out to bring to Yali, in the hospital; his legs were hit by the bomb and he will never walk again). Noam sees the trigger release in Ashraf's hand, and runs out to him; as they embrace, Ashraf detonates the bomb and their bodies, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed, horrified.

The Israel/Palestine conflict infuriates me to no end, and one of the few things that infuriates me even more is the unfair treatment of gays by certain so-called faiths. Beyond these, the thing that infuriates me most is the very concept of suicide bombing. Ashraf's hopelessness is crushing when considered against the quite real possibility of his moving to (yes, I'll say it) a more civilized city like London or New York or San Francisco, where he and Noam could have had a long life together, perhaps even working to increase tolerance in their respective faiths and cultures. Of course, the movie is a movie, and its impact comes from its intensely dramatic conclusion, but I have not seen a movie in such a long time during which I identified so deeply with the characters, felt so much like another one of their friends, that I am now starting to cry again just thinking about that explosion. Interestingly enough, the lovers' demise is much more upsetting given that the lovers are gay men (than if they had been simply a heterosexual couple), which leads me to wonder why I particularly fetishize (and whether anyone else similarly fetishizes) that relationship.

Outside of the theater, I heard some of the audience members complaining that the whole thing was too forced (i.e. names like "Golan" and "Jihad" are too loaded) but those complaints hold no water. This was actually one of the lightest, easiest to swallow representations I've seen of Israeli/Palestinian life, particularly for young people, and I've been there, so I can say. Those old Upper West Side Jews didn't know what they were talking about; it's been fifty years since they spent a summer on a kibbutz.

No comments: