Movie Review: Tel Aviv on Fire

Telling a woman she looks explosive will not make her heart trumble.

Not rated. Opens Friday at the Clay Theater.

In addition to being fast-paced and very funny, Sameh Zoabi’s Tel Aviv on Fire is as timely a parable on the dangers of fan entitlement as you could hope for. In present-day Ramallah, Salam (Kais Nashif) is a youngish, moderately bright Palestinian man whose uncle gets him a job as a production assistant on the popular Israeli soap opera series Tel Aviv On Fire, itself set before the Six Days War in 1967. (Much like how comedy is tragedy plus time, all wars are ultimately fodder for melodrama.) Salam soon fails upward into the position of writer, but complications ensue when he catches the attention of the Israeli checkpoint’s Captain Assi (Yaniv Biton), who considers Fire to be unforgivably anti-Zionist but whose wife loves the show, much to his disgust. Assi begins making demands on Salam about where the show’s story should go, sometimes with a gun to Salam’s head. While the overall tone is farcical, what keeps the movie Tel Aviv on Fire grounded — even beyond the setting of the Israeli-Palestinan conflict — is that it’s not worlds different from viewers sending death threats to producers to express their disapproval about a story or a character, a stupid thing that happens in the real world. No matter the time or the culture, fans never change.

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