Adolescents coming from rough economic and social backgrounds stand in the center of three of the most engaging films that were produced in Israel the last year. Juvenile delinquents in “Doubtful”, Russian immigrant teens in “Here and Now” and 17-Year-old Asher who seeks a way out of his predicted existence in “Scaffolding” are the heroes of these powerful films, which bring the periphery to the center. They expose real life heroes from periphery towns that face a social reality that offers them little or no hope for change or a future. The titles of the films offer an expressive symbolic statement to the heroes' existential situation.
All three films were directed by first time directors, who wrote the script based on their personal experience and encounters with teens from harsh neighborhoods that face economic and social difficulties. Furthermore, all three films work with and have non-actors playing lead roles. These social realist films come from the heart and give a fist to the stomach.
Matan Yair, director of “Scaffolding”, had been teaching literature mostly to students on probation from working class backgrounds when he met Asher Lax the lead actor and hero of the film. Asher intrigued him immediately. Yair recounts, "I felt, immediately, that he would be a fascinating character because he evoked such strong and varied emotional responses in me. I felt fear in response to his brutality and lack of limits, compassionate warmth because of his difficulties in reading, jealousy because of his unfettered ability to follow his impulses and desires."
“Here and Now” was inspired by Roman Shumanov’s encounter with a group of Russian immigrants in a poor community in Israel that formed a breakdance group. He documented their hardships and dreams in a documentary titled “Babylon Dreamers” with the hope that the film will raise awareness to the challenges and circumstances faced by young people in Israel from a low economic status. "Here and Now" is a feature fiction adaptation of the documentary focusing on a group of rappers struggling to keep their heads above the water.
Eliran Eliya directed and wrote “Doubtful” based on a true shocking story that happened to him while working and counseling juvenile teen delinquents.
A broad look reveals that few Israeli films are based on literary adaptations; mainly filmmaking comes from a very personal place and the scriptwriters/directors connection and involvement with the characters, a situation and a place. The first-hand connection of the filmmakers with their story and heroes are the inspirational well of the films. Israeli cinema as it is manifested in “Here and Now”, Doubtful” and “Scaffolding” and similar films such as “Vasermill” and “Valley” offer a intimate look at what is going on in the social periphery of Israeli society – minorities, immigrants, economic struggles, broken homes. It offers vibrant filmmaking, at times uncut and unpolished but honest and real.
The social realist films focusing on teens from the periphery mirror this social diversity. They express a candid viewpoint that for these teens the future is uncertain and an opportunity for change or way out is not at all evident.