A Fly in the Soup – Avi Mograbi

Mistrust, humiliation, fear, desire for revenge, apathy and mutual unwillingness to forgive… Welcome to the Israeli-Palestinian border! Your guide in the world of permanent conflict will be the “enfant terrible” of Israeli film Avi Mograbi.

Avi Mograbi is a Jew. He was born in 1956 in Tel Aviv. Though his origin is but a random circumstance, in an “apartheid state”, as Mograbi calls Israel, the question of race plays a crucial role. It is only due to the fact that he is Jewish that he was able to make his most renowned film Avenge But One of My Two Eyes which partially takes place on the hot ground of the military checkpoints in the Gaza Strip. As a Palestinian, he could hardly afford to turn his camera against Israeli soldiers; or rather, he could do it but once…

The Jewish origin of Avi Mograbi is also the main factor to define the crucial theme of his films. Mograbi copes with the Jewish identity of the Israeli state by means of an original authorial approach. He struggles with it, laughs at it, keeps a distance from it, analyses it, however, he never renounces it. Politics has become a natural part of his approach to documentary film. His position is not easy though. As a “left-winger”, he stands on the completely opposite side of the political spectrum than the overwhelming majority of the Israeli society. As a result, Israeli audiences “punish” him by an ostentatious lack of interest in his films. On the other hand, his politically themes have raised a great response abroad.

Besides the above mentioned Avenge But One of My Two Eyes, premiered at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival, the DAFilms portal will introduce other significant films from his filmography in the following week. Besides his extremely personal ironic social commentaries Happy Birthday Mr. Mograbi and How I Learned to Overcome My Fear and Love Arik Sharon, the greatest international critical response was raised primarily by his “musical-documentary-tragedy” Z32. A young Jewish soldier killed two policemen in a retaliatory action during his military service and is now looking for forgiveness together with his girlfriend. Mograbi stylizes his film confession as Brecht’s Threepenny opera with its typical alienation effect of a commentator introducing the individual scenes. In the key moments of the story, Mograbi steps out of the story completely, accompanying it musically in the spirit of Kurt Weil’s cabaret songs. Inappropriate irony or painful absurdity? That is up to the viewer.

Avi Mograbi has had the (ill) luck to become the “face” of his films. His notion of cinematography is very personal. The body of his work has become his own body; he guarantees his films by his own person. He has a special gift of being able to make fun of himself while taking his themes deadly seriously. He doesn’t believe in “observation” though, his camera always being part of the plot. Paraphrasing the term “fly on the wall” denoting a distanced observational documentary approach, he proclaims himself rather a “fly in the soup” with typical irony. He is stuck in it. Up to his neck. He may annoy you, he may disgust you, however, he won’t leave you cold.

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