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A successful exercise, but not much more than that
You remember Madonna's video "Justify My Love," where she wanders along a series of rooms with eccentric people in them and finally steps away toward the camera with a look of amusement? "Ana Arabia" is a little like "Justify My Love" without the sexual angle. Yuval Scharf plays a reporter who wanders around a little neglected neighborhood in Jaffa and hears from a succession of the residents. The conversations are quite stylized; they often begin or end with no formalities, and often Scharf doesn't look at the people she's talking with. The premise for the conversations is that she's a reporter, but she fails to conduct a conversation the way a reporter would. The stories that the people tell link up, but as far as I noticed (and I may have missed something) they don't add up to any particular revelation; and rather than action in the present, we get mostly narration about the past. Along the way, we do get a sense that something has gone wrong with the relationship of Jews and Arabs in Jaffa. Evidently they used to get along better-- except that the Jews would get angry if a Jewish woman married an Arab man. While perhaps there was a part of Jaffa where that picture was accurate, it's not accurate if applied to the whole of Jaffa (much less the whole Middle East); Arabs were already slaughtering Jews in Jaffa back in the 1920s. Aside from the obligatory why-can't-we-all-just-get-along message, though, what we have here is above all else an exercise in producing a full-length movie in a single shot. The small cast, virtually an all-star line-up, performs well, and the photography is impeccable. Assuming the movie really is a single shot as it's advertised, I wonder what the person credited with "film editing" actually did. Cropping? Color correction?
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