James' Journey To Jerusalem

Its brightly colored surfaces and chirpy, picaresque tone notwithstanding, filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowciz's first feature is a scathing condemnation of the rampant venality he perceives as having gripped his country. The fact that the country in question is Israel adds an additional layer of complexity to this deceptively simple fable. James (beguiling...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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Its brightly colored surfaces and chirpy, picaresque tone notwithstanding, filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowciz's first feature is a scathing condemnation of the rampant venality he perceives as having gripped his country. The fact that the country in question is Israel adds an additional layer of complexity to this deceptively simple fable. James (beguiling South African actor Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe), an honest young Christian pastor from a small African village, is chosen by his parishioners to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem on their behalf. But he no sooner arrives in Tel Aviv than he's waylaid by immigration officials who, despite his valid passport, toss James in jail. Before he can explain his case, James is released into the custody of his jailer's brother, Shimi (Salim Daw), who takes him to a cramped apartment filled with illegal migrant workers. James thanks Shimi for his kindness, but when he tries to explain that he must be leaving for Jerusalem, Shimi tells him he's not going anywhere: James must repay the bail money, which he can do by joining one of Shimi's cleaning crews. A man of honor, James acknowledges his debt and soon finds himself caring for Shimi's crotchety father, Sallah (Arie Elias), who lives in a dilapidated shack in the shadow of the new high-rises that dot the city skyline. Shimi and his wife, Rachel (Sandra Schonwald), covet the old man's land, but Sallah refuses to sell and sets James to fixing up his overgrown garden while he sits in the shade, gambling on backgammon with his friends. When Sallah discovers that James invariably rolls double sixes, he feigns a sore arm and asks James roll the dice for him, thus separating his opponents from their shekels. Sadly, this ongoing exploitation begins to affect the once idealistic young James, who's warned by everyone he meets not to be a "frayer" — a sucker. Instead of finding his way back to the road to Jerusalem, James soon learns to beat Shimi at his own game. In his controversial documentary THE INNER TOUR, Alexandrowicz took an unforgiving look at the Israeli settlement of what was once Arab land; his take on Israeli society is no less caustic here, only less specific. But just when his depiction of Israeli cupidity approaches the ugliest anti-Semitic stereotypes, he deftly skirts the centire issue; the cruelest moment comes courtesy of the church where James turns for solace. Alexandrowicz's perspective is as ecumenical as it is damning. (In Hebrew, English and Zulu, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 2003
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: Its brightly colored surfaces and chirpy, picaresque tone notwithstanding, filmmaker Ra'anan Alexandrowciz's first feature is a scathing condemnation of the rampant venality he perceives as having gripped his country. The fact that the country in question… (more)

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