Screened as part of NZIFF 2006
Here’s a film that captures the spirit of rebellion and apathy that turns teenage girls into hell on wheels – and if you were an 18-year-old girl soldier on border patrol in Jerusalem, you might feel rebellious too. Charged with the task of policing the Arab community, what would you really be focused on? The wonderfully truthful answer in Close to Home, which follows the adventures of two Israeli girls on compulsory military duty in their hometown, is that you’d be skiving off to smoke cigarettes, window shop and stalk hot guys. Right from the opening scene, set in a border inspection booth where Smadar minutely and sulkily goes through an Arab woman’s possessions while her supervisor Dubek (who turns out to be no less interested in hot guys) tries to quash a mutiny among the other girls, this film feels effortlessly and entertainingly authentic.
While Smadar and her squad of similarly hopeless recruits patrol the streets of Jerusalem,so fetching in their crisp green berets and box-fresh fatigues, we get a glimpse of the complex politics of policing a divided city. But the real emphasis is on the reluctant friendship between Smadar and the painfully over-conscientious Mirit, who once squealed on a colleague and has been about as popular as dog poop ever since. As the two girls mooch and squabble their way through the job, occasionally experiencing the real horrors of terrorism, their unfolding relationship forms a warm and honest study in girlish insecurity and eventual acceptance. Unlike the girls in last year’s My Summer of Love, Smadar and Mirit don’t actually fall in love (despite a dreamy scooter ride), but Close to Home pulses with exactly the heady insouciance that made that film so appealing. — Bianca Zander