FILM REVIEW; War Weary Immigrants Facing Another War

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The somber opening sequence establishes a mood of gloomy disorientation that settles like a woozy pall over the film, whose dialogue feels semi-improvised by actors who seem slightly dazed. Arriving on the shore, the immigrants face the grim realization that they have left behind one war only to be drafted immediately into another. Their first skirmish is with British troops (speaking in ludicrous American accents) patrolling the dunes, who fire their guns in the air and make only a token effort to turn them back.

As the newcomers are hurriedly escorted into the hills by members of the Palmach, the Jewish defense force that anticipated their arrival, they are broken into two groups. One group encounters a band of Palestinian refugees leaving the country, and a war of words breaks out.

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It isn't long before they're engaging in actual combat. After a crash course in weaponry, the immigrants launch an attack on an Arab hilltop stronghold. Many of the immigrants are killed. And Menahem (Menachem Lang), a high-spirited young cantor who has arrived with his new wife, Hanka (Veronica Nicole), is seriously wounded.

When the soldiers appropriate a Palestinian farmer's donkey to transport Menahem back to camp, their expedient ignites the first of the movie's prophetic rants. ''We'll remain here in spite of you, like a wall,'' the angry farmer shouts. ''We'll write poems. Our demonstrations will fill the streets. We'll fill the jails with our pride. Our outraged children will follow us, generation after generation.''

But the movie's last and bitterest word belongs to Janusz. The new arrival, who minutes earlier declared himself happy at last, cracks under the realization that more war lies ahead. Lurching about the camp, he delivers a tearful, self-hating tirade against Jewish history, which he says consists of ''oppression, slander, persecution and martyrdom.'' He ultimately dismisses that Jewish history and belief in a Messiah as ''madness.''

While it's an open question to what degree his words echo the filmmaker's concerns about the Zionist project, they end this dour little film on a note of howling despair.

KEDMA

Directed by Amos Gitai; written (in Hebrew, with English subtitles) by Mr. Gitai and Marie-José Sanselme, with Marc Weitzmann, Mordechai Goldhecht, Haim Hazaz and Taufik Zayad; director of photography, Yorgos Arvanitis; edited by Kobi Netanel; music by David Darling and Manfred Eicher; set decoration, Eitan Levi; produced by Mr. Gitai and Laurent Truchot; released by Kino International. At the Quad Cinema, 34 West 13th Street, Greenwich Village. Running time: 100 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Andrei Kashkar (Janusz), Helena Yaralova (Rosa), Yussef Abu Warda (Yussuf), Moni Moshonov (Klibanov), Juliano Merr (Mussa), Menachem Lang (Menahem) and Veronica Nicole (Hanka).

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Source : http://www.nytimes.com/2003/02/07/movies/film-review-war-weary-immigrants-facing-another-war.html

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