Miss Entebbe

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 06/19/03 17:48:53

"Just when you think it's going to get dark and meaningful, it goes easy."
3 stars (Just Average)

You don't see many movies out of Israel about the Isreal-Palestine conflict, at least not in the rest of the world. What little you do see is generally documentary-based, politically motivated, and audience-free. Miss Entebbe is something you're unlikely to have seen before - a look at the conflict wrapped up in a 70's period piece, cast almost entirely with children.

Set during the summer of 1976 in Jerusalem, Miss Entebbe is the story of 13-year-old Noa (Merav Abrahami), an Israeli girl who just wants to be a tomboy. She picks on the local fat kid, throws water balloons, get dirty and generally farts about as any 13-year-old should. But when one of her pals hears that his mother has been taken hostage by Palestinian terrorists on a plane heading to Paris, the group of kids decide they can't just sit and wait for things to change, they have to do something to make change happen right now.

While they're talking this over, a chance encounter with the Arab son of the local Palestinian gardener sees the kid bleeding on the ground and panic from the kids. To get themselves out of a sticky situation, Noa suggests that they take the Arab kid hostage, and anonymously threaten to kill him if the Israeli hostages at Entebbe Airport aren't released. So they grab an Uzi sitting around in dad's closet (this being Israel and not the USA, they couldn't just buy one for $50 at Wal-Mart), grab the bleeding Palestinian kid and lock him in a closet.

About this point in the film, you're beginning to think that things are going to grow very ugly. When the kids take a polaroid of their captive with a gun to his head, with a view to alerting the press, the seat suddenly becomes very uncomfortable under your backside. But writer/director Omri Levy unfortunately doesn't have the stomach for the fight that would follow a dark twist, and takes the story into much lighter territory instead.

More's the pity, because Miss Entebbe should have been an explosive look at what we do to children when we pass along our prejudices to them. It should have been a damning enditement of those who continue to steer the world to war, in the name of a one-sided peace. It should have been dark and horrific and the sort of thing you'll never forget.

Instead, it's fluff. Levy does manage to paint a believable picture of 1970's Jerusalem; if you didn't know better you'd think you were watching a film from 1982. But while this Middle East lesser-Virgin Suicides sells the period well, it fails to deliver on any other front. The performances aren't strong (perhaps to be expected considering the age of the cast), and the resolution to what goes on is at best simple, at worst hokey.

Miss Entebbe is certainly the kind of film that you expect to see at film festivals, but that's more because it isn't good enough to push through into the general theatrical release schedule, and less because it's a film that has to be seen.

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