Film Review: EMPATHY

Writer/Director Adi Refaeli

A really wonderful film called EMPATHY played on Saturday night (10/27) at the Wilmette Theatre as part of the 2nd annual Chicago Festival of Israeli Cinema. Writer/director Adi Refaeli began her career in community television & this is her first film. The EMPATHY premiere was held at last year’s Jerusalem Film Festival, and it was also shown at Israel’s International Women’s Film Festival in Rehovot. It has now reached America where EMPATHY recently won the Judges Award for Best Short from the Red Rock Film Festival in Utah. It has also received positive reviews after film festival screenings in Boston, Indianapolis, Manhattan, and Syracuse, NY.

     EMPATHY is sort of an Israeli version of CRASH (which won the Best Picture Oscar in 2006), but I actually think it’s much better. Its special achievement is to balance the scenes so that you come to see each unique point of view. There are Ashkenazi, Mizrachi, Russian, & Palestinian characters, & all are remarkably well-depicted. Even though she has no time to create complex back stories, Adi makes us understand why they all do the things they do, even when specific actions are reprehensible. One chain of events represents the whole, and the urgent plea of this novice filmmaker is obvious: before lashing out at “the other” stop and think through the consequences, not just how you might impact them, but what damage you could do to your own soul in the process.

       The 2007 CFIC runs from October 18th thru October 28th, & I assisted with numerous Q&A sessions this year (including the Q&A after the 10/27 screening of EMPATHY). EMPATHY is my top pick in this year’s CFIC shorts category. Click here for my Guide to the 2007 CFIC (published in the October issue of the JUF NEWS). Click here for info on last year’s event.

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