Foreign movie aficionados cannot ignore the diverse film coming out of Israel over the past decade. Titles like 5 Broken Cameras and Zero Motivation have enjoyed mainstream success in American markets. The appeal is due to the on-the-ground exposure of a culture, for American and Western audiences, that is inherently seen through a biased lens – namely, the Israel-Palestine conflict. Junction 48 looks to continue the unique portrayal of the region by focusing on an equally unique character: a Palestinian rapper.
Kareem is a rap musician living in the seedy half-Israeli half-Palestinian town of Lod. His neighbourhood is the 48, a microcosm of the strong but sordid life of the town; naturally many of the social ills experienced by Kareem turn into song lyrics. Since the focus is on the daily life of the rough-and-tumble Lod, rather than the Palestine-Israel conflict, Kareem’s rap allows for an Arab and Jewish fanbase. Yet when outside factors force the residents of the 48 to confront the Conflict, will Kareem change his tune?
Like Kareem’s lyrics, the point of Junction 48 is not to present a solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, instead the characters are just as diverse in opinion as their Jewish counterparts in Zero Motivation. Kareem and his friends drive around in a Mercedes while listening to Tupac and drinking Svedka vodka. The Conflict is a problem, yes, but various conflicts of daily life are much more immediate. While this may be the intent of Palestinian Tamer Nafer (“Kareem”) and Israeli Oren Moverman, hardliners may find fault with the conclusion.
The majority of Junction 48 is suspenseful entertainment that features catchy music, real social woes and the ironies that exist on and off the screen. While the familiar music bio-pic structure will draw Western audiences in for the first half, the second half takes a more reflective turn that loses momentum. Nonetheless, the convincing characters, well portrayed by passionate actors, allow Junction 48 to continue the successful run of diverse cinema from the region.
Junction 48 does not have a UK release date yet.
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