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Seeds of war

Time of Favor sheds light on Isreali conflict

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Time of Favor, an Israeli film about two men in love with the same woman, is a Written on the Wind set on the yeshiva. But here, instead of Lauren Bacall, the studs are vying over the rabbi's glum daughter, who looks like Alanis Morissette after pulling an all-nighter. The film won six Israeli Oscars and certainly has enough rousing action and romantic intrigue to rival many Hollywood thrillers. But this film distinguishes itself with a moral conscience that allows it to rise above its more conventional elements.

Menachem (Aki Avni), in the Rock Hudson role, is a superhunk military man in a jauntily cocked yarmulke who tempts said girl Michal (Tinkerbell) away from his best friend Pini (Edan Alterman). Nevermind that Michal's father, Rabbi Meltzer (Assi Dayan), had promised his daughter's hand to Pini as a reward to the yeshiva's best student. The lady has different ideas and poor Pini's heart gets ground into a messy pulp, thus suggesting religious indoctrination and a broken heart are a recipe for religious fundamentalism.

Amidst these romantic tortures is the film's far more interesting and timely theme, about the seeds of religious fundamentalism planted in the receptive minds of these young combination yeshiva students/Israeli soldiers.

While the world debates the roots of Arab terrorism, first-time director (and Orthodox Jew) Joseph Cedar's soul-searching drama has the integrity to suggest the candle burns at both ends. Rabbi Meltzer is a holy rolling warmonger who feeds his students on religious self-righteousness, telling them in ornate metaphor, "Whoever is not willing to give his life" to the Israeli cause "will stay a dog."

By its end, Time of Favor has unspooled into a mildly hokey military action film with characters bellowing, "Are you with me?" delivered through G.I. Joe clenched teeth. With the feverish fundamentalists against the more rational military, it's a race to the finish to find out who will come out on top and -- perhaps more importantly -- get the girl. But Cedar's film raises some provocative questions amidst the melodrama and manages to carve an arresting drama out of a terminally difficult subject.

Time of Favor screens April 28 at 5 p.m. at Rich Auditorium, High Museum of Art, 1280 Peachtree St. In Hebrew with English subtitles. A discussion led by Emory film professor Matthew Bernstein will follow. Co-sponsored by the Intown Jewish Life Center. $7, $6 for museum members.

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