Girl with head on young man's shoulder

Palestinian student Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) and Jewish girlfriend Naomi (Danielle Kitzis) allow themselves a rare moment of public intimacy in A Borrowed Identity (photo by EitanRiklis)

Teen flick tackles Israel’s cultural divide

If politicians were replaced by filmmakers, the hostility between Arabs and Israelis would soon evaporate. That’s the impression you get after watching any number of imported flicks that treat people on both sides of the issue with respect and understanding.

Often the stories focus on a friendship or romance between a Jew and a Muslim. Sometimes, as in the case of A Borrowed Identity, they focus on both.

Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) is the proud son of Salah (Ali Suliman), a Palestinian Israeli who was forced to drop out of college after being implicated in a long-ago bombing. Salah wants his brainy son to have the opportunity he lost and is elated when Eyad is accepted into a prestigious school in Jerusalem.

As one of the school’s few Arabs, Eyad at first feels isolated. It’s not long, however, before he’s made his first two Jewish friends: Naomi (Danielle Kitzis), a flirtatious young woman, and Yonatan (Michael Moshonov), a fellow student who has muscular dystrophy.

Director Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride) and screenwriter Sayed Kashua have fun with the new friends’ cultural differences: A recurring joke refers to Palestinians’ tendency to mispronounce the “p” sound as “b.” But the film doesn’t shy away from the real problems created by Israel’s Jewish-Palestinian divide. In particular, Eyad and Naomi are careful to keep their growing romance a secret from their schoolmates and especially from their parents.

Kashua’s script has a tendency toward heavy-handedness, both symbolically and melodramatically. Countering that, Riklis and his cast tell the story in an appealingly low-key way. Even the shocking ending unfolds in an understated manner.

A Borrowed Identitydoesn’t offer an optimistic view of the Palestinian issue, but it does suggest that individual Jews and Palestinians can learn to understand and even love each other. Given the situation’s intractability, that’s about all you can ask for.

Rating: 3½ stars (out of 5)

A Borrowed Identity(not rated) opens Friday (Aug. 21) at the Gateway Film Center in Columbus.

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United by literature, divided by jealousy

The End of the Touris about a 1996 interview between Rolling Stone reporter David Lipsky and bestselling author David Foster Wallace.

Watching the film may not convince you to read Wallace’s 1,000-plus-page novel, Infinite Jest, which by some accounts is a maddening task. But you’ll still be grateful you had the opportunity to spend time with a facsimile of its late author, who took his own life in 2008.

In one of the great performances of his or any career, Jason Segel plays Wallace as a man deeply uncomfortable with his newfound success. In fact, he seems deeply uncomfortable with the world in general, which may help to explain his tendency to lose himself in the movies and television.

Not that Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg) is completely aware of all this. An author himself, Lipsky both admires and envies Wallace’s success and talent. As a result, he has trouble understanding why Wallace isn’t enjoying his sudden celebrity as much as Lipsky would in his place.

Over the course of their five-day interview—conducted while Wallace travels to Minneapolis on the last leg of a book tour—the two men alternately confide in and spar with each other. Lipsky’s attempts to earn Wallace’s trust are complicated by Wallace’s suspicion that the reporter is more interested in concocting a juicy tell-all than in writing an accurate profile.

And to some extent, that suspicion is justified. Lipsky’s editor is pushing him to get to the bottom of rumors that Wallace once had a drug problem.

The film’s biggest disappointment is that it fails to explain why Lipsky’s story never actually appeared in Rolling Stone. Otherwise, it’s hard to find fault.

The offbeat piece of cinema is sensitively directed by James Ponsoldt (The Spectacular Now) and cleverly scripted by playwright Donald Margulies (from Lipsky’s memoir). Add the combustible chemistry created by its two leads, and you have a consistently engrossing character study.

Rating: 4½ stars (out of 5)

The End of the Tour, rated R, opens Thursday (Aug. 20) at the Drexel Theatre and Friday (Aug. 21) at the Gateway Film Center and AMC Lennox Town Center 24.


David Lipsky (Jesse Eisenberg, left) interviews bestselling author David Foster Wallace (Jason Segel) in The End of the Tour