‘Jeruzalem’ of Gold This Is Not

If you’ve never been to Israel, the apocalyptic film Jeruzalem may not be the best introduction to the Middle East, but it sure is a great travelogue for the ancient city. Shot like the queen of indie, hand-held horror, Blair Witch Project, Jeruzalem shows us a hip, ancient town with winding streets that lend itself to the possibility of always getting lost. And with Sarah, one of the film’s protagonists, wearing Google glasses that spells out every visual nuance, we have a techno look into the mysterious city that makes so many religious crazy to possess.

Sarah (Yael Grobglas) of what looks like somewhere in Florida, has only recently lost her beloved brother and is sent on a fun trip with adorably blonde Rachel (Danielle Jadelyn) to forget it all for a while. Rachel and Sarah behave like all young women today… openly sexual, ready for fun and not too serious about the country and its history. When they meet anthropologist Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), Sarah overlooks his boring yammering about biblical prophecies… “he’s got a great butt.”

In the coolest hostel since Eat Pray Love, they meet sexy Omar (Tom Graziani), the Arab owner’s son, who plays host, showing them hip Klezmer clubs and to die-for views of the old town. He and Rachel hit it off and Sarah, being high strung from her recent loss, goes walking more than once alone… each turn of the road, we expect trouble. Dogs bark, shadows fall and then suddenly she’s back safely at the hostel. But the tension the Paz brothers create in this part of the film is classic and borrowed (think the red hooded character in Don’t Look Now) and quite scary.

The juxtaposition of computer data on the screen with demons of a primeval order of winged ones works well. The fact that a cave drawing of one of these creatures looks a lot like a marijuana plant should not confuse anyone… this is not a pot-induced dream. Jerusalem syndrome is quite real in this film; people lose their minds trying to come to terms with the holiness of it all. For poor Kevin, the knowledge that Yom Kippur is right around the corner and bringing with it a prophecy of doom for those inside the gates, is too much.

No spoiler me, let’s just say their holiday on the Day of Judgment ain’t much fun. Monstrous things happen that even Israeli soldiers with uzis can’t stop it. When Omar’s dad decides to use a cave for an escape route, one of the soldiers tells the Arab, with typical Israeli humor, that “it’s a stupid idea, but it might work.”

Prayers are made, fingers crossed and read Jeremiah for the rest of the story.

Yoav and Doron Paz have made a novel peek into hell. Rotem Yaron can be thanked for the wild shooting and Yuval Bar-on’s sound design is striking.

The film opens this weekend in New York.

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