Personal Journeys with Gramma

Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.

Laughing When Nothing Seems Funny

One way to stay sane in an insane world is to laugh.  Laughter eases tensions and gives us better wrinkles.  However, with the dire specters of death and domination looming over us like oversized Hollywood aliens threatening to annihilate civilization and any recognizable future, we have to struggle to find something amusing.  In the U.S., we were used to using parody for humor, but real life has exceeded our imaginations in that direction, so we’re at a loss.  Where can we turn to find an example of kindly humor under circumstances that are anything but kind?  If we count out films based on impossible super characters, monstrous marine life attacking shore, recycled TV shows, or animated escapees from video games, what’s left?

How about turning to a film from a region that hasn’t known real peace in what we know of human history?  From the outside, material for comedy seems unlikely.  It would have to be macabre, wouldn’t it?  If people in the Middle East can laugh about their situation in 1967 before the Six-Day War, there’s hope for us all.

TEL AVIV ON FIRE (released in 2019) doesn’t sound like a fun film.  The title conjures images we’ve seen played out in death and destruction.  In contrast, it’s a story of Salam, an unaccomplished young Palestinian who works under his uncle correcting Hebrew pronunciation in the shooting of a very popular regional TV soap opera. The serial of TEL AVIV ON FIRE entertains romantic Zionists and Palestinians alike with a suspenseful love story involving a beautiful spy, a radical Zionist, and an Israeli officer.

To reach his job in Ramallah each day, Salam must go through an Israeli West Bank check point where he runs afoul of an Israeli commander.  The commander scorns the TV program for which Salam carries a script, but his wife loves it, so Salam tells him he is the writer.  The commander urges him to make the Israeli officer in the story more attractive.  To ease his twice-daily passage through the check point, the Salam manages to comply, only to discover the Israeli commander has a talent for writing dialogue that gets Salam promoted to be a real writer.  Alas, Salam must ply the Israeli commander with hummus to get him to continue contributing to the script.  The TV show unwinds relentlessly toward an ending about which no one agrees as personal agendas color opinions.  Meanwhile, subplots twist around Salam and the other film characters.

TEL AVIV ON FIRE wasn’t designed as a vehicle for political propaganda or even soul-searching character studies.  Instead, it glides smoothly along on the reality that we are all far more alike than different, a fact that makes us look foolish if we’re viewed from a grand perspective.  It’s a reminder the world should embrace.

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