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Time Of Favour
cast: Aki Avni, Tinkerbell, Edan Alterman, and Asi Dyan

writer and director: Joseph Cedar
102 minutes (12) 2001
widescreen ratio 2.35:1
Blue Dolphin DVD Region 2 retail

RATING: 9/10
reviewed by Debbie Moon
Young Israeli army commander Menachem (Aki Avni) is sent to a small settlement on the edge of the desert to raise a battalion from its residents. The community is led and inspired by Rabbi Meltzer, who preaches the restoration of the ancient temple and a new era of victory and hope. His scholars make dedicated soldiers, but the higher levels of the army are worried that Meltzer is a fanatic. However, it's not politics but passion that lights the fuse under this volatile community: when Menachem falls for the rabbi's beautiful daughter Michal, already promised to star scholar Pini (Idan Alterman), the stage is set for tragedy...

This startling Israeli film takes a critical and even-handed look at the complex feelings within ordinary Jewish communities, and the way that simmering personal tensions spill over into politics. Perpetually hyped up to fight an unseen enemy, their personal lives bound by tradition and arranged marriages, the young recruits find their only stability in Meltzer's promises of God and glory - though, once things escalate, even he's revealed to be far from the fanatic you might expect.

The film benefits from some tremendous performances, particularly from the magnetic Avni, Alterman, and the unfortunately named Tinkerbell, who plays Michal. It also manages to convey both the familiarity and the strangeness of Israeli daily life, often with dry humour - when asked by the intelligence services to betray what they think is a terrorist plot headed by the rabbi's disciples, Michal's major concern is whether becoming a spy pays well enough for her to buy a moped...

Building to an unpredictable and nail-biting climax, Time Of Favour blends its romantic triangle and its military thriller elements with consummate skill, and makes you wonder why we don't see more Israeli cinema. A real gem that's well worth seeking out.

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