Arab and Israeli Gays
Israel has entered the world of gay cinema in a big way. Several Israeli movies dealing with gay issues have been emerging for the last few years: “Paper Dolls”, “Amazing Grace”, “Good Boys”, “Zero Degrees of Separation” and the films of Eytan Fox. “Yossi and Jagger”, “Walk on Water” and “Time Off”. For a small country which only recently gave equal rights to homosexuals, this number of movies is quite an achievement. The newest film is another movie by Eytan Fox “The Bubble” and it is a movie like none you have seen. It mixes politics with sex and deals realistically to what happens when a Palestinian and an Israeli soldier fall in love.
In downtown Tel Aviv there is a street that is popular with the alternative crowd. Shenkin Street is home to cafes and shops that are both cosmopolitan and sexy. It is here that student protests are born and it is the farthest point from the reality of the nearby occupied Palestine. It is a bubble in the middle of the big city and Eytan Fox uses it as the backdrop for his film which is important, contemporary (actually even more than that—it is urgent), funny and comedic. Above all else it is a story of forbidden love.
Eytan Fox is Israel’s most controversial film director as he dares to touch themes that are not reflective of the minds of the majority of Israeli citizens. He deals with taboo—whether it is with the issue of Nazis or a gay love affair in the Israeli army. In “The Bubble” he tackles Arab/Israeli politics and he does so by letting us enter their world and allowing us to see the imperfection of the characters. The young Israelis that we meet n the movie are secular, progressive and gay.
Two gay roommates share an apartment with Lulu, a straight girl. Noam, a soldier and clerk in a record store is a music lover; his roommate, Yali, is a flamboyant queen who does not seem to care how others see him. The three live the lives of slackers—they hang out, watch TV, get laid and just enjoy life. They put aside political conflicts and they are focused on their lives and their loves. They live in a bubble.
Lulu works in a shop that sells bath products and becomes very upset when the sexy guy she thinks is her boyfriend cannot be bothered with her (after they had sex). Yali manages a restaurant and gets involved with a guy who is far more than he can handle and is a bit too provincial for a modern guy from Tel Aviv.
Noam, while on army duty at a checkpoint o the West bank sees Ashraf, a Palestinian to whom he is sexually attracted (the forbidden fruit?). When Ashraf finds Noam’s identity card and brings it to him in Tel Aviv, barriers fall and nothing can harness the sexual electricity that runs through both guys. They fall in love. Lulu and Yali decide to help Ashraf find refuge n Tel Aviv. Since it is illegal for him to spend time in the city, they try to pass him off as an Israeli by teaching him how to dress, by giving him a Hebrew name, and by getting him a job at the café that Yali manages. Ashraf is taken in by Tel Aviv—it is so different from the village from which he comes. Tel Aviv is permissive and Ashraf loves Noam and the city equally. Yet he misses his family and is anxious and eager to tell his sister about his new love.
The young adults dream that one day Tel Aviv and Israel will be free of all problems dealing with politics and they are others organize a rave against Israeli occupation. But their idealism eventually is forced to come to terms with the reality of the occupation and the Israeli military and their dreams and romances are soon dashed. They are forced to face the very hard truth that friendship and love are in direct opposition to the continuous violence of that part of the world. What was a beautiful and erotic love story is blown to bits. The two men, Noam and Ashraf, had inspired change and represented symbols of peace but as their love developed it was doomed from the start. The violence that existed outside of the bubble envelops all of the inhabitants and eventually turns the love affair in an ironic and painful tragedy.
Eytan Fox hides nothing in this film—he attacks both sides of the Israel/Palestine conflict and shows that the only way to find true love in such an atmosphere is to leave it. The actuality of the film lies in its realism and the ending still has me shaken up. It is a powerful film.