Not in Tel Aviv > Nony Geffen

Nony Geffen | Israel/2012

review by Roberto Rippa

Micha, a twenty-nine year old teacher, is dismissed without notice by the institute he works for. His first reaction is to kidnap one of his students to help him get in touch with the girl he’s been in love with since high school. When the girl joins them, it’s the beginning of an adventure that will affect their souls and their hearts.

It’s a film made of contradictions, Not in Tel Aviv, Nony Geffen’s first full feature, probably echoes its author’s personality: it’s not scared of showing its references (Godard’s Band of Outsiders but it seems to me there’s some A Woman Is a Woman too) but it’s always very personal, it’s hilarious at times but at others it’s deep, dramatic and melancholic; it was filmed in just 12 days but it’s always consistently compelling, it’s wild and impetuous but also capable of great delicacy.

Not in Tel Aviv opens with the meeting that tells the main character of his dismissal from the school where he teaches because of spending cuts. He immediately reacts by kidnapping one of his – not at all reluctant – students to ask her to help him get in contact with the girl (curiously named Nony) he’s been in love with since high school. The beginning of the film is like thunder and gives rhythm to the rest of the story, an expressive reflection of the author, a self-taught director in his first film.

The fast pace that Geffen gives his film, that he wrote himself in a few days after closing himself in a room – in deprivation of food and sleep – doesn’t prevent the characters from having a particular depth that increases throughout the story.
In fact, after the kidnapping, everything is a dash of events involving the almost asexual trio, a series of circumstances that it’s impossible to tell here without ruining the surprises but that involves, among others, the last meeting of the main character with his mother, a hilarious clash with a group of feminists, the getaway from the police that sooner or later – it’s only a matter of time – will stop them. In the meantime the trio will have to find a balance inside them and everyone has the opportunity to search for a more satisfying life, at least for a short time.

Tel Aviv, as a place, doesn’t exist here. And the film was shot elsewhere (namely in Kiryat Tiv’on) because the director says he’s sick and tired of films set in the same places in the same city and of the centrality of Tel Aviv in Israel’s culture). But Israel is always there, even if as a subliminal presence. And there’s always a great sense of humour, the ability to always surprise and a very peculiar taste for politically incorrectness.

A rare mixture of obstinacy and tenacity, Geffen has never studied cinema (he couldn’t afford it) but he worked on many sets in various roles (including as an actor in students’ films before debuting as a protagonist in a full feature film in last year’s It’s never Too Late by Ido Fluk) asking everybody (directors, cinematographers and many other people) questions whose answers became his school.

Shot in digital in just twelve days and very little money, in beautiful black and white photographed by Ziv Bercovich, the debut film by Nony Geffen highlights an uncommon talent in handling such complex material and a rare sensitivity in mixing comedy (with a hint of slapstick) and drama in a balance that never breaks, making you laugh in your belly and in your head but leaving a bitter aftertaste.

Nony Geffen’s film is pure punk cinema, animated by a profoundly revolutionary spirit and a unique taste for mockery. Geffen allows himself all the freedom, narrative and formal, he needs while never losing a deeper meaning of his story and always using a strong hand that allows the various elements of his film to not cannibalize each other.

If Nony Geffen himself brings his character depth and irony, the two protagonists Yaara Pelzig (seen in Nadav Lapid’s “Policeman”) and Romi Aboulafia, are worthy companions of adventure. To underline their deeds and their moods, the perfect soundtrack is provided by Uzi Ramirez, aka Uzi Feinerman, a valued name of the Israeli indie scene who discovered a love for American folk music during a temporary transfer of his family in the United States. He provides the music for the film while the dreamy song that serves as the theme for the film, “Giant Heart”, was written by Rotem Bar Or, founder of ther indie folk band The Angelcy, and is sung by him with Romi Aboulafia.

If you want, you can dissect Not in Tel Aviv looking to find its flaws but the ultimate truth is: if this film doesn’t steal your heart it’s because you don’t have one.■

Roberto Rippa

Read the interview with Nony Geffen (in English) on Rapporto Confidenziale numero36

Rapporto Confidenziale – numero36

October/November 2012

ISSN: 2235-1329

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Not in Tel Aviv
Director, writer: Nony Geffen • Cinematographer: Ziv Bercovich • Editor: Tal Hayek • Music: Rotem Bar Or (song: Giant Heart) • Music: Uzi Ramirez • Sound Designer: Chen Harpaz • Sound Mixer: Vadim Yagman • Art director: Sharon Eagle • Costum designer: Naama Preis • Make-up: Lior Amorai • Casting: Naomi Goldner • Line Producer: Tony Copti • Producer: Itai Tamir • Executive producer: Mike Altmann, Byron Habinsdki, Nimrod Nir, Kobi Vaknin • Cast: Nony Geffen (Micha), Romi Aboulafia (Nony), Yaara Pelzig (Anna), Tal Friedman (Ofer Shechter), Anat Atzmon (madre di Micha), Rotem Bar Or (Rotem), Ram Nehari (preside), Rahel Shor (leader femminista), Liat Bein (madre di Anna) • Production: Laila Films • Language: Hebrew • Country: Israel • Year: 2012 • Lenght: 85’

Thirty-years old Nony Geffen was born and raised in Israel in a village that he describes as being in the middle of nowhere, orribly boring, with no cable TV or internet. This did not prevent him to develop a passion for cinema that, after working on various sets asking everybody thousands of questions whose aswers became his cinema school, found its expression in his very first film Not in Tel Aviv. After playing in a few short movies, he debuted last year as lead actor in Ido Fluk’s It’s Never Too Late.
He is already working at the pre-production of his second film. Recently, the Israeli edition of Time Out has included his name in its list of 33 Tel Aviv culture exponents under 33 to keep an eye on.

Foto: Alessandro G. Capuzzi/Sette Secondi Circa

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