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The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted 100 years. 100 years of war, bloodshed, bitterness, suffering. 100 years of stalemate, intransigence and failed peace deals. And now, it's all over! They've finally found the solution: A game of soccer. The winner gets to stay. The loser leaves forever. And no whining.
Was selected as part of the Locarno Film Festival's "First Look" series in 2015, a section of the festival accessible to industry badge holders only, where films in post-production are screened to potential buyers and festival programmers. See more »
A hilarious but insightful mockumentary about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Don't miss this film! The humor and the performances that execute this saga are razor-sharp, imaginative, and nothing short of hilarious. Based on a book by Itay Meirson, The 90-Minute War begins with a serious broadcast by journalist Michael Greenspan: "The leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Territories will finally resolve the longest running conflict in modern history through a soccer match. The game will decide who gets to stay in the Holy Land and who has to go off looking for a new homeland."
Not one cinematic opportunity is lost as the two sides make their way toward the match. The football chairmen—played by Moshe Igvy for Israel and Norman Issa for Palestine—stab, jab, and poke each other over every issue in their peoples' historic disagreements. Igvy and Issa shared the Best Actor award at Haifa's 2016 Film Festival and without doubt will bring some audiences back to revel in their performances again. Even though their roles steal the show, other memorable "types" support them.
The film is told as a documentary of the historic game, and many of the hilarious moments result from the filmmaking itself—what the characters say to the unseen camera and interviewer. A polished, chiseled FIFA leader helps negotiate the terms of the game, including who will referee, as both sides reject every nominee—Germany is out of the question for obvious reasons and England as well. For the laid-back, cigar-smoking Israeli chairman, even Sweden and Norway are out of the question: "They're always against us." Both chairmen rely on antacids as they sit across from each other during these difficult meetings.
The game will be held in Portugal as the people there don't know anything about the Middle East conflict. Leiria's stadium manager Mr. Gomes studies an atlas to find Gaza as tells his wife: "We're the perfect place for the Camp David of soccer." "What?" she answers, mystified. Gomes helps resolve the referee stalemate by suggesting his cousin Carlito, "who's never even heard of the place," and both sides agree to the choice.
Many problems emerge: Israel's coach is a famous German goalie, Mr. Müller, which leads to anxiety at Israeli headquarters: "Can we really have a German leading our team in a match that decides the future of the Jewish people?" Several times, Israeli checkpoint soldiers harass the Palestinian team's bus en route to practice destinations. Another obstacle comes up when one of Israel's best players, Iyad Zuamut—an Israeli of Palestinian descent—can't decide which side he should play on. This leads to FIFA setting new nationality rules for the game—players must live in the country they play for, for at least two weeks of the year.
Besides the documentary's camera igniting moments of hilarity, Michael Greenspan returns at regular intervals to report on the teams' progress. His deadpan delivery at politically loaded locations contains propaganda from both sides. Standing in a Palestinian tunnel with everyday smuggling going on behind him, he tells us how these tunnels bring fuel, medicine, American cigarettes, plasma screens, and fast food to the Palestinians. And on this particular day, they're bringing Germany's soccer star Ahmad Hany to play for the Palestinians. We witness Hany's arrival through the dark, low-ceilinged channel.
Not only superlative characters and fast-paced humor define the quality of this movie. Amazing music and cinematography, by Ran Shem-Tov and Daniel Kedem, respectively, burst upon the screen and through the sound system between every scene, revving up the atmosphere in the manner of sports and politics, but in a subtly satirical way.
As the day of the game approaches and both chairmen realize the tremendous burden they carry for their people, a perfect moment occurs. The neutral Portuguese stadium manager, Gomes, invites both chairmen for a drink on the eve of the game. Unexpectedly the adversaries share a lovely, personal time together at the bar, passing around pictures of their children and grandchildren. Afterward, the filmmakers interview each chairman in his hotel bedroom. The Israeli chief admits how much he enjoyed the evening—"It's always like that," he says wistfully, "one on one we get along fine." When it's his turn, the Palestinian chief says: "I'm really sad. There should have been another solution." After all the laughter we've enjoyed over the two sides' conflict, these last touching moments give the movie a meaning beyond simple mockumentary.
Early in the film, the camera shoots a sports bar near the Leiria stadium, capturing the drinkers' raunchy conversation about the upcoming game. The camera returns to this low-life bar after the game is over—as an epilogue. The characters' shouting disgust for the game show us the irrelevance of which side won—a particularly incisive conclusion to the longest running conflict in modern history.
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