SAMUEL Maoz’s bravura depiction of war deservedly won the coveted Golden Lion at the 2009 Venice Film Festival.
Shot from the perspective of a four-strong team of men within a tank during the First Lebanon War, the film begins in June 1982 with tank commander Assi (Itay Tiran) preparing to lead his men – ammunitions loader Hertzl (Oshri Cohen), gun man Shmulik (Yoav Donat) and driver Yigal (Michael Moshonov) – into hostile territory.
What begins as a routine mission descends into carnage and tensions flare within the tank, leading to bickering between the soldiers.
An Israeli commander, Jamil (Zohar Strauss), leaves a Syrian captive (Dudu Tassa) in the bowels of the tank to ensure his safe passage through the war zone.
The prisoner’s presence exacerbates divisions between Assi and his team and the superior officer struggles to maintain firm control in the face of challenges to his authority.
STAR RATING: ****
AMERICAN: THE BILL HICKS STORY (15)
MANY years after his death, Bill Hicks remains a potent influence on successive generations of comedians.
His fearlessness at the microphone, tearing apart religion and the very fabric of society, was his trademark and he seldom took prisoners in the search of belly laughs.
Matt Harlock and Paul Thomas’s animated documentary pays tribute to this virtuoso talent by creating a mosaic of highlights from Hicks’s stage performances, photographs and deeply personal testimony from the friends and family who knew him best and sometimes accompanied him on his extraordinary journey to notoriety.
STAR RATING: ***
VINCERE (WIN) (15)
BEHIND every great man there is a woman and that is certainly the case in Marco Bellocchio’s biopic based on the book The Secret Son Of Il Duce: The Story Of Albino Mussolini And His Mother Ida Dalser. A young and impassioned Benito Mussolini (Filippo Timi) draws the attentions of emotionally unstable Ida Dalser (Giovanna Mezzogiorno).
The pair become lovers and raise a son then Benito leaves to fight in the Italian army. He is presumed killed in battle and poor Ida struggles to come to terms with her loss.
When Benito re-emerges some years later, she is thrilled – less so to discover that he now has a wife, Rachele (Michela Cescon) and, as his mistress, she is the embarrassment to his ambitions. Ida refuses to fade silently into the background, putting her in direct conflict with the man she worships.
STAR RATING: ***
EYES WIDE OPEN (12A)
IN AN ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood of Jerusalem, the family unit is sacred.
Aaron (Xohar Strauss) is a well respected member of this insular community, running the butcher shop he inherited from his father.
When he is not working, Aaron lavishes attention on his devoted wife Rivka (Tinkerbell) and devotes time to his faith. In order to cope with increasing work pressures, Aaron hires an apprentice, Ezri (Ran Danker), and the undeniable spark of attraction between the two men kindles a forbidden desire.
As much as Aaron and Ezri try to resist, they are irresistibly drawn to each other.
Hoping to keep their feelings for each other hidden, Aaron and Ezri maintain the facade of employer and apprentice, acutely aware of the terrible dangers they would face if the affair was ever exposed.
STAR RATING: ***