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Doubtful - Rounding up the Usual Suspects
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Doubtful
SIFF's capsule summary: "An emotionally scarred writer is sent to teach a group of juvenile delinquents in a small Israeli town, where he discovers a talent for encouraging his students to express themselves through filmmaking and forms a special bond with one troubled teen. Winner of Best First Feature and Best Cinematography at the Jerusalem Film Festival.
    'Elya's strong directing abilities and the intimacy he creates between us and the characters that makes his first feature more than just a promising debut, but an impressive film in its own right.' Orr Sigoli — Cineuropa" (Israel, 2017, 88 minutes)
SIFF link: Doubtful

As the at-fault driver in an injury accident, screenwriter Assi (Ran Danker) is assigned to community service. Apparently inspired by a few "inspiring teacher" formula movies, he does his community service at a dreary classroom full of juveniles on probation, trying to teach them film-making. He gives each of them an obsolescent video camera and has them make video diaries, and also organizes a group film project. A volatile boy, Eden (Adar Hazazi Gersch), particularly warms to Assi. Eden's mother also warms to Assi, possibly not just out of appreciation for the apparent improvement in Eden's mother. Meanwhile, Assi rekindles his romance with Liraz (Liron Ben-Shlush), a grocery cashier.

6 Almost Good This film, written and directed by Eliran Elya, is an interesting twist on the inspiring teacher formula, based in part on a real life story. The directing is very good, but the writing seems to show a shortage of experience with actual juvenile offenders. (I probably wouldn't have noticed that discrepancy myself, but a friend worked in a community center similar to Assi's classroom, and pointed out the flaws.) Some characters' motives are unclear too. Assi clearly wants to get through his obligation, but he also wants to do good, so he makes sense. Eden's mother (whose character name I don't recall) seems both interested in Assi's apparent positive influence on Eden and attracted to him. Most complicated is Eden, who seems ambiguous about whether he's attracted to Assi, admiring as a male authority figure, interested in him as a possible partner for his mother, or something else. Maybe the ambiguities were intentional, but they made the storytelling feel vague. I rate the writing almost good.

The acting is generally good; Adar Hazazi Gersch is very good. The locations are appropriately dreary, and the art direction is good.

My initial impression was to rate the film good, but after the discussion with the friend with juvenile offender experience, and further thoughts about the characters' motivations, I downgraded my rating to almost good.

Languages: Hebrew, with English subtitles.

Rating: I don't think this film has a US rating (yet), but I'd guess it would rate an "R", on the basis of harsh language and plot elements that would be spoilers to explain.

Screening: 12:15 pm, Pacific Place (room 4).
Audience: a typical SIFF press screening crowd, around 100, about 285 seats (estimated capacity).

Snacks: none.

Ads and announcements: no ads at press screenings; SIFF volunteer "J" provided announcements.

Notes to myself:

SIFF statistics: 72 films (45 features, 27 shorts), 48 time slots, 5 parties. ("J": only three parties, and 20 shorts, and two fewer films because she stayed home today.)

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