Image Above: A Poster for A Borrowed Identity (Image from official site).
Any film set in Israel in the 1980’s and 90’s will have a multitude of opportunities to highlight and explore the distressing ways that politics, religion and territory can be twisted and manipulated to create conditions so toxic and brutal that humans turn against each other - oppressing and aggressing - with cruelty and hatred fueled by mistrust and desperation. While this is the backdrop for this very personal and very specific story - it is not the story.
©Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) and Jonathan (Michael Moshonov), A Borrowed Identity, Images in Photo Set, (Image from official site)
It is a difficult decision for his family as his father must overcome his resentment of the Israeli government, the fact that it will be financially difficult, and acknowledge that it is the only chance that Eyad will have to realize his potential and get ahead. At school, the obstacles which Eyad encounters as a cultural and ethnic outsider are the usual teenage trials and tribulations times ten. He forbears with equanimity and openness and eventually forms relationships. He befriends another misfit, Jonathan (Michael Moshonov), a classmate with muscular dystrophy with whom he develops a deep bond. A pretty and popular classmate, Naomi (Daniel Kitsis) toys with Eyad as a casual curiosity at first. However, their relationship gradually blooms into something intense enough that they convince themselves that their differences are irrelevant. The only snag is that they are the only two who feel that way. The deck is so stacked against Eyad as an Arab on so many levels that when he borrows Jonathan’s ID card in order to open a bank account he awakens to a new reality.
©Young Eyad (Razi Gabareen), A Borrowed Identity, Images in Photo Set, (Image from official site)
As the two stories unfold, these characters allow themselves to behave in ways that transcend their mileu and the rigid belief systems which govern the actions of all of their peers and cause so much pain and anguish. They are liberated and insulated by their separateness and they are generous and selfless with one another in very beautiful and unexpected ways.
©Jonathan (Michael Moshonov), A Borrowed Identity, Images in Photo Set, (Image from official site)
By focusing on the humanity of the individual characters versus intractable ideologies of politics and religion - it makes the case for compassion, tolerance and understanding trumping dogma and blind adherence to strictures handed down from ages past. It's about human kindness, gratitude, and clarity rising above all of the petty soul-destroying emotions and beliefs that soften guide our lives. And it is about the courage and audacity to do the right thing even when it flies in the face of everything you once believed to be true.
©Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) and Edna (Yael Abecassis), A Borrowed Identity, Images in Photo Set, (Image from official site)
The final act of gratitude and generosity is so unexpected and subtly handled and so rational as well as fearlessly unimaginable. When individuals are being subjected to oppressive conditions which they are powerless to change they can at the very least help each other to survive and thrive. This is a timeless message and very uplifting film.
By Belle McIntyre