Sydney Film Festival: Policeman

A taut political drama presenting an Israel we rarely see on screen...

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Films about conflict in Israel usually concern Jews versus Arabs. This one is different: the opposition is about class and ideology, and both groups are Jewish.

The story takes a while to get going, but writer-director Nadav Lapid\'s slow-burning approach pays off; we really get to know the characters and care about what subsequently happens to them.

The initial focus is on a tight-knit group of definitively macho men who are members of a police anti-terrorism unit. They tackle each other, slap backs a lot and generally go in for homoerotic bonding.  Their leader is Yaron (Yiftach Klein). His wife is heavily pregnant, and the often contradictory disparate aspects of his personality are painstakingly revealed: sensitive, sexist, brutal, doting, sentimental, sleazy  ...

Over in the red corner, so to speak, is a bunch of Baader-Meinhof-style anarchist militants with a serious mission. Their unofficial  leader is Natanel ( Yiftach Klein ), but his female comrade and fellow student Shira ( Yaara Pelzis ) is formidable too, if tormented. Her political mantra is \"\'It\'s time for the poor to get rich and the rich to start dying\'\'. What\'s interesting is that the cops and the terrorists, though representing diametrically opposing interests and obviously destined to clash, have much in common : they\'re narcissistic and gung-ho, they fetishize guns, and they\'re intensely dependent on their peers.

Some of the plot details here are as novel as the themes. One of the policemen is, for example, delegated to take a fall for his colleagues on criminal allegations, because he has cancer and therefore won\'t be charged.

Policeman has a sharp script, and effectively spare use of sound. The ending is puzzling and there are moments of staginess but, despite its prosaic title, it\'s a singular and unpredictable drama.

Policeman screens at the Sydney Film Festival on Wednesday, 13th June, 2.15pm at Event Cinemas 4. 

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