This congenial but somewhat forced farce examines the Middle East's most bitter internecine hatreds in a lighthearted vein.
Herbert Bauman (Gideon Singer) is a retired Israeli professor and ardent preservationist. When not interposing himself between wrecking balls and old buildings, he dwells in a Tel Aviv shack surrounded by accumulated detritus. There Bauman is visited by Phares (Salim Dau), a portly Palestinean
sanitation worker whose father tended the since-conquered soil Bauman's lot now occupies. Friendly but insistent Phares wants to replant his ancestral orange grove, and only an epileptic seizure prevents Bauman from kicking the Arab out. Phares assumes a nursemaid/helpmate role to the stricken
scholar, then captures Bauman's artistic interest when he salvages fragments of the Flying Camel, a once-famous public sculpture erected in the 1930s (to mock a sheikh's remark that a successful Zionist territory was as improbable as a camel that flies). Bauman vows to restore the relic, and
Phares eagerly cooperates, still trying to earn his orange grove.
Rounding out their Don Quixote/Sancho Panza act is a Sophia Loren belissima figure, Gina (Laurence Bouvard), a young Italian nun dismissed from her order for chronic noncelibacy and now devoted to good works. The Flying Camel still lacks its wings, which turn up on an ersatz angel statue promoting
a Jewish-owned sidewalk cafe. The thug family running the eatery won't listen to Bauman and Phares, and so, while Gina's God-given sensuality distracts the kosher clodhoppers, our heroes steal the wings. The Flying Camel is barely complete when the cafe owner and his sons attack, starting a fire
that consumes Bauman's residence. During the blaze, however, the monument indeed rises phoenix-like into the sky (courtesy of a painfully obvious offscreen crane). Their friendship cemented by this omen, Bauman allows Phares to plant orange trees again.
Media attitudes within Israel have long been more liberal than those of the international Zionist community, and sabra filmmaker Rami Na'aman's Muslim-Jewish-Christian odd trio clearly idealizes the Palestinian underdog Phares as cuddly, kindly, clever, and docile in the face of nonstop suspicion
and hostility from Hebrew citizens and authorities. He's also a trained engineer--but within Israeli society can advance no further than garbageman. Even Bauman, barely more than a street person, treats Phares like a slave until the metaphorical finale. Intransigent Jews bear the brunt of the
satire's implied criticism, while flirty Catholic Gina represents...what? The film snags on the same sort of well-intentioned allegories of brotherhood that make mainstream message movies like Stanley Kramer's THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING (1966) seem awfully simplistic at
Somehow it comes as no surprise that THE FLYING CAMEL was shopped around as a Hollywood property before coming home to serve as Na'aman's feature directorial bow. Local color and endearing performances by native talent make it a passing pleasantry; it's a toss-up whether a lavish Tinseltown
treatment would have made this wishful whimsy less effective or suited its naivete just fine. (Substance abuse, profanity.)
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- Released: 1994
- Rating: NR
- Review: This congenial but somewhat forced farce examines the Middle East's most bitter internecine hatreds in a lighthearted vein. Herbert Bauman (Gideon Singer) is a retired Israeli professor and ardent preservationist. When not interposing himself between wrec… (more)