Yana's Friends

  • 1999
  • Movie
  • NR
  • Comedy, Drama, Romance

The comedy is fairly light and the romance decidedly offbeat, but the backdrop to Arik Kaplun's film, which won a total of ten Israeli Oscars, is dead serious: Israel at the height of the Gulf War. Two separate sets of Russian immigrants arrive in Tel Aviv on the same afternoon, and while they move into different apartment complexes, it's just a matter of...read more

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Reviewed by Ken Fox
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The comedy is fairly light and the romance decidedly offbeat, but the backdrop to Arik Kaplun's film, which won a total of ten Israeli Oscars, is dead serious: Israel at the height of the Gulf War. Two separate sets of Russian immigrants arrive in Tel Aviv on the same afternoon, and while they move into different apartment complexes, it's just a matter of time before their lives intertwine. Middle-aged Alik (Vladimir Friedman) and his wife Mila (Lena Sachanova) are still hauling their furniture out of the moving van when Alik hits on a sure-fire method for making some fast cash. Having left Mila's mute and invalid grandfather, Yitzhak (Moscu Alcalay), at the curb in his wheelchair, Alik returns to find Yitzhak's upturned hat filled with coins. But when he wheels poor Yitzhak onto a bustling city street for an afternoon's panhandling, he finds he's not the only busker angling for loose change. Meanwhile, Fima (Israel Demidov) is moving his young, pregnant wife, Yana (Evelyn Kaplun), into the apartment she'll be sharing with aspiring filmmaker Eli (Nir Levi) while Fima returns to Russia to tie up a few loose ends. Days pass with no word from Fima, and when an anxious Yana finally reaches his mother by phone, she's told that Fima won't be coming back to Israel; he's going to remain in Russia and use their Israeli immigration benefits to open a business. It's up to Yana to pay back the loan. When Yana tries to go home to Russia, she's told she can't leave the country without first proving she's debt free. Broke, depressed and hugely pregnant, Yana finds an unlikely friend — and soon, lover — in Eli, and as the Iraqi air raids intensify, she learns something interesting about herself: She finds mortal danger sexy. Just how the seemingly unrelated paths of Yana, Eli and Alik's family cross makes for a nice twist, but this is a film that's clearly geared towards a domestic audience; director Kaplun and cowriter Simeon Vinokur offer very little insight into the very real phenomenon of Israeli immigration. The fact that each year an enormous number of Jews leave their homes in Russia for an uncertain future in Israel is more than just interesting; it's crucial to fully understanding what motivates Kaplun's colorful characters. (In Hebrew and Russian, with English subtitles.)

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  • Released: 1999
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: The comedy is fairly light and the romance decidedly offbeat, but the backdrop to Arik Kaplun's film, which won a total of ten Israeli Oscars, is dead serious: Israel at the height of the Gulf War. Two separate sets of Russian immigrants arrive in Tel Aviv… (more)

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