My Son / Dancing Arabs: A Borrowed Identity | Heartfelt moving film

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Based on Dancing Arabs by Sayed Kashua, My Son / The Second Son was directed by Eran Riklis and stars Tawfeek Barhom, Razi Gabareen, Danielle Kitzis, Ali Suliman, Michael Moshonov, Yael Abecassis, & Laetitia Eido.

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Premise: Eyad,a boy from an Arab village has the opportunity to attend a prestigious boarding school in Jerusalem. Eyad tries hard to fit in with the Jewish-Israeli culture of the late 1980s. He develops a close friendship with Jonathan, who suffers from muscular dystrophy, and is embraced as a member of family by Jonathan’s mother Edna. Time passes and as Saddam Hussein’s Scud missiles loom over the horizon, Eyad knows love and disappointment, and makes a decision that will alter the course of his life forever.

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Review: The film started off innocently, much like Eyad / Iyad is at the beginning. It’s sweet, funny and almost carefree and gets serious overtime as Eyad grows up and tries to understand and fit into this adult world. Dancing Arabs’ comedic tone reflects Eyad’s childhood innonce, the tension and drama later on in the movie attests of this young arab’s struggles to find his place and his identity around jewish Israel.

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Eran Riklis succeeded in capturing Iyad’s evolution in My son, coherently interlacing different tones and getting a good performance out of Razi Gabareen & Tawfeek Barhom who both embody Eyad’s life. Years of Eyad’s life are smartly intertwined with the tensions in the region and Eyad’s choices. Althought Riklis, very skillfully took on a difficult subject and managed to make a movie advocating coexistence, My Son felt at times a bit too sugar coated. There’s no denying that it is about Eyad and his journey to self discovery but some of the characters – although secondary – completly lacked substence or development. The mothers for instance, both brilliantly played by Abecassis & Eido kind of lacked personality. The Arab-Israeli tensions are in the film but they are addressed very subtle, hinted. 

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The cast nicely played the bonds and chemistry between the characters. Tawfeek Barhom, awkwardness and isolation in his new surroundings is on point. He is utterly believable and convincing as the good-intentioned young arab who wants to fit in. My Son is a beautiful, funny film shining a good light on both population.

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