Foreign Sister

(Ahot Zara-Israeli)

It's easier to admire the intent of Dan Wolman in making Foreign Sister, an agit-prop about the evolving friendship between a bourgeois Israeli woman and an illegal Ethiopian, than to respect its execution. Technically pedestrian and made on an extremely low budget, pic recalls the socially-relevant works of Ken Loach, with a touch of El Norte: It deals with the politics of Israel's new underclass, estimated at over 300,000 foreign workers. This mildly engaging meller, co-winner of the 2000 Wolgin Prize for Best Israeli Feature, is not strong enough to play in first-tier festivals, but it should appeal to patrons of Israel Film Festival, which tours American cities, and other Jewish venues.

Naomi, the 50-year-old protagonist, is an upper middle-class woman who seems to have everything: a handsome husband and two adoring kids. First act suggests that the story may follow Cassavetes' A Woman Under the Influence, showing Naomi on the verge of nervous breakdown, collapsing under the burden of housework–and need to be in control. Things change, when Naomi hires Nigiset, a beautiful Ethiopian Christian, to work as a maid for her mother in law. The encounter between these vastly different women channels Naomi's life in a new direction, exposing her to an underprivileged class. Unfortunately, Wolman's flat direction accentuates the predictable course of his soft narrative.

A Dan Wolman production. Produced, directed and written by Dan Wolman. Camera (color), Itamar Hadar; editor, Shoshi Wolman; music, Slava Ganelin; sound, Amir Hacohen. Reviewed at the Jerusalem Film Festival, July 19, 2000. Running time: 124 min. With: Tamar Yerushalmi, Askala Marcus, Zvi Salton, Miriam Nevo, Neli Tagar, Yosi Asafa.