Nadav Lapid brings his latest picture, Ahed’s Knee, to the 2021 iteration of London Film Festival. The film explores the shattering trauma and anxiety of being an Israeli citizen and relationships with one’s country and one’s art.
The story follows a celebrated movie director (Avshalom Pollak), whose latest release has been met with great success at the Berlinale. He hopes to centre his next project around Palestinian activist Ahed Tamini, who slapped an Israeli soldier (the video subsequently going viral). The title is derived from a tweet by an Israeli who said that Tamini should be shot in the knee, and so the film focuses on shots of various knees, illustrating the vulnerability and weakness of not just the body part but people who decide to fight for the greater good.
The director travels to the desert area of Arava to present one of his works. His host (Nur Fibak) is an assistant to the minister for culture and head of libraries in her area; her positive enthusiasm counteracts her guests’ brooding and bleak view on life and their country. She invites all of her family to the screening, all of whom bring baked goods, much to the filmmaker’s disinterest. The two then embark on a walk that leads to threats on their nationalism, livelihood and life itself.
Visually, this is stunning, with wide shots of the desert contrasted with tight framing of the characters, jumping from person to person to catch up with the conversation or from past to present without warning. However, the film falls short in its dialogue, the central character embarking on tortuously long rants that, while they do contain truths so painful that he brings the host to cries of denial, fail to capture the frustration and conflict of the Israeli experience in today’s climate. Ahed’s Knee does not breathe enough humanity into its narrative, instead relying on powerful visuals that take over from the themes and messages of the production.
A disappointing offering that loses all hope for relevance to its over-stretched rhetoric and uninspiring characters.
Ahed’s Knee does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews and interviews from our London Film Festival 2021 coverage here.
For further information about the festival visit the official BFI website here.
Watch the trailer for Ahed’s Knee here: