Sunday, October 28, 2012
The Other Son
That's the plot line. When the mistake is discovered, how do the families react? What disturbs them more: that their son has been raised as an enemy or that he has been raised in another religion? That's where "The Other Son" gets complicated.
The two fathers and the Palestinian's brother are primarily concerned that their birth son has been raised by the "other side." The mothers are more concerned about the return of the son they gave birth to. The way this difference plays out is all the more fascinating because the families on both sides are decent people.
Writes David D'Arcy in SFGate: Levy's film, her third feature, isn't based on a true story, at least not one that she knew, Levy stressed on the telephone from her home in Paris. The screenplay, she said, was distilled from elements of a dilemma that emerged in the fog of war.
"What we know is that when the Scuds from Baghdad were flying over Israel during the war of 1991, maternity wards of hospitals were evacuated in the panic," she says. "It turned out that some children were not properly identified. I have testimony from men and women that they are not the biological children of their parents.
"Fiction enables me to go a bit further than reality, assuming that the baby of Israeli parents was given to a family in the West Bank, and that the child of Palestinian parents was given to an Israeli family."
Happy families, that is, until an unsettling blood test.
"It's improbable," the director acknowledges, "but it's possible - possible enough for us to make a film."
The maternity ward in "The Other Son" is in the northern Israeli city of Haifa, where Jews and Arabs coexist in relative harmony. In the new panic triggered by the blood test, two families get to know each other in ways that they never imagined. Two young men, Joseph and Yacine (played by Jules Sitruk and Mehdi Dehbi, respectively), are in the balance as angry fathers on both sides resist accepting the truth. Joseph's French mother (Emmanuelle Devos) and Yacine's Arab mother (Areen Omari) each react to the shock by setting one more place at the table.
"The men approach the problem as another act of political violence," Levy says. "The women are mothers, and if there is a child to be loved - on the other side of the wall - that is still a child to be loved, and the need has to be addressed right away. It's the women here who force the men to be reasonable."