Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: Unrated
Running Time: 96 minutes
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“The Holy Land” is a small, amateurish Israeli feature about a rabbinical student named Mendy who is so distracted from his religious studies by porno magazines and Herman Hesse novels that his rabbi gives him some rather non-kosher advice: go to another city and hire a prostitute, preferably a cutie who is not Jewish, and enjoy some old-fashioned in-and-out as a means of letting off steam.
On this ludicrous foundation (since when does a rabbi encourage students to have sex with shiksah prostitutes?) comes the unlikely love between Mendy and Sasha, a 19-year-old Russian immigrant who is gainfully employed in a Tel Aviv bordello. Mendy gets obsessed with Sasha after an evening’s penetration and winds up following Sasha to Jerusalem where he meets Mike, an American who runs a dubious bar where Israelis and Palestinians drink side-by-side while listening to some of the worst Middle Eastern pop music this side of Ofra Haza. Mendy forgets his rabbinical studies and starts bartending at Mike’s establishment. Mendy then gets himself into a mess of troubles, including the smuggling of a mysterious package into Israel on behalf of an Arab friend of Mike’s and confronting the unlikely appearance of the wacky rabbi who told him to get laid but is now waving the Talmud in a “shame on you” air of contempt.
“The Holy Land” is not so much terrible as it is utterly forgettable. As a commentary on contemporary Israel, the film breaks no new ground and only stirs up miserable stereotypes by giving the sole Arab character terrorist undertones and treating immigrant Russian women as being unable to accomplish any work outside of being whores. The characters are wafer thin and no help is brought to flesh out the screenplay by the across-the-board mediocre acting, although Tchelet Semel can raise some giggles with a Russian accent that sounds suspiciously like June Foray’s Natasha from the old Bullwinkle cartoons.
First-time filmmaker Eitan Gorlin is responsible for “The Holy Land.” Perhaps with some help that can be obtained via prayers or college filmmaking classes, he can do better in future films.
Posted on July 8, 2003 in Reviews by Phil Hall
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