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March 6 – March 7, 2016

Occupation of the Interior - The Films of Nadav Lapid

In J. Hoberman’s estimation, Nadav Lapid (b. 1975) is “the most internationally acclaimed Israeli filmmaker in recent memory… and perhaps ever,” which is quite a distinction for a young director with only two feature films under his belt. Born and raised in Tel Aviv under the influence of film—his father a scriptwriter, his mother an editor—Lapid initially studied philosophy at the University of Tel Aviv and later attended the Sam Spiegel Film & Television School in Jerusalem. He has had stints as a journalist, a television critic and a documentary cinematographer as well as a fiction writer; he published a collection of novellas in Israel and France.

Without traditional emotional and narrative guides, including background music, Lapid’s stories austerely, philosophically maneuver through lives fraught with disquieting, deep contradictions. Unpredictably discomforting and quietly humorous, the drama and suspense may not immediately register except for the emotionally electric buzz activating every scene. Often uncomfortably bound or cropped by the camera frame, his Israeli protagonists are trapped, in one way or another, between opposing realities.

Victims and perpetrators are not only indistinguishable but virtually beside the point in Lapid’s existential quandaries, which home in on an unspoken insularity and identity particular to Israel, with wider implications for all of civilization. With stories that are palpably shaped by, but barely mention, Palestine, Lapid’s cinema astutely lacerates the political negative space left in the wake of victim/hero duality. “The Palestinians at least know they are under occupation,” states a member of the ultra-left faction in Policeman. Lapid’s films present, with complicated lucidity, the internal conflicts both within the community and the individual soul that ongoing violence and wars externalize.

Much to the surprise of Lapid and others, moments before the release of Policeman—which depicts a group of Jewish anti-capitalist terrorists—unprecedented social justice protests broke out in Israel in 2011. Though nonviolent, the similarities to his film were eerie to a director who thought he was simply constructing a semi-realistic fantasy. "I felt as though people were taking the film out of my hands and screening it in real time.”

Perhaps Lapid’s phenomenal critical acclaim stems in part from this extrasensory sensitivity. The Harvard Film Archive is excited to welcome Nadav Lapid to discuss the reverberations of such incisive work. – Brittany Gravely

Special Event Tickets $12
Nadav Lapid in Person

Sunday March 6 at 7pm

Policeman (Ha-shoter)

Directed by Nadav Lapid. With Yiftach Klein, Yaara Pelzig, Michael Moshonov
Israel 2011, DCP, color, 105 min. Hebrew with English subtitles

In his feature debut, Lapid presents the internal workings of two different urban Tel Aviv tribes whose respective insularity and narcissism prevents one from understanding or even crossing paths with the other—a fact that Lapid reflects in the narrative’s split structure. On one end is a band of athletic, macho buddies within Israel’s antiterrorism police unit. Their very masculine, physical and nationalistic drive seems at odds with the leftist activists’ romantic, philosophic, anarchic mission. However, both are on similarly confused searches for meaning and purpose while masking deeper conflicts beneath a confident, gun-wielding, communal egotism. The police unit’s tight, brotherly bonds must be secured by the sacrifice of one of its members, while the glue holding together the radicals consists of a love triangle and a bond between father and son. Lapid’s steady, precise gaze lingers on indirectly telling moments, as if the harder truths always approach as asides. Neither his audience nor his characters may be prepared to see the Other when looking in the mirror.

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Special Event Tickets $12
Nadav Lapid in Person

Monday March 7 at 7pm

The Kindergarten Teacher (Haganenet)

Directed by Nadav Lapid. With Sarit Larry, Avi Shnaidman, Lior Raz
Israel/France 2014, DCP, color, 119 min. Hebrew with English subtitles

The discovery of a preternaturally erudite poet in her kindergarten class opens a complex door for Nira, the unsettled character of the title. It seems all who encounter young Yoav experience the phenomenon in a different way, and no one except for Nira seems to recognize the depth of his strange gift. Holding him in a sometimes uncomfortably exalted regard, Nira wants to foster his poetry without corrupting its purity, yet even she is not immune to taking advantage of his seemingly effortless lyricism for her own, unresolved ends. With Lapid’s uniquely quiet strains of humor, pathos and suspense, the film darkly ponders what to do with transcendence, with authentic expression, with elusive, baffling beauty and truth. In the midst of a world burdened by so much surface noise, Nira attempts to realize her own radical poem through one direct, impossible action.

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