Director Effi Banay returns to his childhood neighborhood, Kfar Shalem, from which he moved a few years ago in the aftermath of a battle against evacuation by the authorities. He is confronted by his former neighbors, who were offered no compensation for their homes - and by the Palestinian residents who were evacuated from the village in 1948. He continues his journey to the roots of his family and to the story of his mother who immigrated from a village in Isfahan, Iran, to a village she thought was a carbon copy of the old one. She continued to long for her home till the day she died.
Written and Directed by: Effi BanayProduced by: Yehuda Bitton - Y. Bitton ProductionsSponsored by: The Yehoshua Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts, The Gesher Foundation & The Second Authority for Television & Radio, Zochrot OrganizationLanguage: Hebrew, Farsi & Arabic with English subtitles
Hagit Lavie, Dugri-Net, December 4th, 2011
Longing is a word that I cannot bear to hear. There is something about it that makes the stomach turn and the heart ache.
And this is the name that filmmaker Effy Banai chose for his documentary that carries many autobiographical details. Effy Banai was born and raised in the Kfar Shalem neighborhood of Tel Aviv which he left a number of years ago. And his film gets right to the heart of the saga of this underprivileged neighborhood which the Tel Aviv municipality is trying to erase and put up luxury high-rises instead. The last of the weary residents refuse to give up and abandon their homes. They try but cannot understand how the state that in 1948 settled them into the abandoned homes in the Arab village of Salemeh, now want them to move out themselves. For those residents who stayed, life in Kfar Shalom, Salemeh, is a direct continuation of the life in Isfahan Iran. The food, the music, the small stone houses and dirt yards – Margalit, who lost her son in a terror attack, holds up her eviction notice and declares: "I will not leave this place alive".
Filmmaker Effy Banai leafs through his photo album. Pictures of his mother hugging his brother and himself. His childhood was a direct continuation of his mother's own childhood in Iran. It is not easy to go back to those childhood memories. His mother singing him a lullaby which is a song of yearning for her own past.
Abu-Sami has yearnings as well. He and the other Arab residents of Salameh were expelled during the 1948 war to Gaza. Now Effy invites him back to see his old home. Through the car window Abu-Sami remembers where things used to be. They pass the mosque and each remembers how the building looked in their day. And then there is the meeting between Margalit and Abu-Sami which is quite moving. Margalit misses her old friends and her life in Iran and says to this Arab man that "we are cousins" and that "it was the English who drew a line between us".
The circles of longing in Effy Banai's film move from the personal to the public. The expulsion of the Palestinians mirrors the expulsion of the Jews from Arab lands. Abu-Sami has chosen to accept what has occurred - he does not want to remain angry. But Margalit cannot forgive and does not want to be thrown out of her home once again.
The film ends with Effy banging nails into the walls of his new home in northern Tel Aviv where he is hanging up family photos.
This film is certainly a good reason to get out of the house and go to see a worthy documentary.
Memories are Home
Gili Iskovitz, Ha’Aretz July 10, 2011
The film tells the story of Jewish immigrants from Iran who came to Israel in the 1960’s and found the process of absorption a difficult one.
The film LONGING, which will be broadcast this evening on Channel 2, is a hard one to pinpoint. It is the story of the Jewish community of Iran which almost in its entirety left Iran in the 1960’s, and settled together in the “Persian Enclave” of Kfar Shalem in south Tel Aviv. The difficulties of integration, the language barrier and being an immigrant in mid-life, all contributed to the almost total defeat of many of them as they continued to long for their native Iran.
This is also the story of the residents to resist the authorities who want to evacuate them from the very houses they were given when they arrived in the country. One elderly and proud woman tells how she worked as an operator for Menachem Begin and the ETZEL to spy on the previous residents of the neighborhood - wealthy Arabs who lived in Salameh – to see if they were preparing for war.
So this is also the story of those residents who fled from the village of Salameh and are still able to outline the boundaries of their former village. Surprisingly there are good relations between those immigrants who took their place, and the former Arab residents.
All of these makes LONGING into a story about strength and weakness, about deportees and deported, about a class war that has replaced nationalist interests. As various neighbors tell their stories, the heart of the film is exposed – the filmmaker’s own family story. His memories of his mother, who died when he was a teenager, are all connected to the landscape of the neighborhood.
These various layers mix together and raise questions about the next generation, about home and the longing for a home. And for leaving home behind.