“Junction 48,” Israeli director Udi Aloni’s exploration of the tumultuous lives of Israeli Arabs, has taken top honors in the TriBeCa Film Festival’s 2016 International Narrative Competition.
Aloni is the son of Shulamit Aloni, a famous Israeli politician and advocate for Palestinian human rights; he’s echoed his mother’s activism through much of his career, and “Junction 48,” his first film after her death in 2014, is dedicated to her. The film, set in the mixed Jewish-Arab city of Lyd, centers on Kareem, an up-and-coming Arab rapper played by hip-hop star Tamer Nafar. While Kareem’s career takes off, he and his friends navigate Lyd’s unfriendly economic climate, the antagonism of Jewish Israelis prominent in the city’s rap scene, and the more conservative leanings of some of the city’s Muslim families, including that of Kareem’s girlfriend Manar (Samar Qupty).
“It’s a wholly human and loving work at a corner of the world that hasn’t quite had this treatment before,” said Lawrence Inglee, one of the film’s producers, speaking with the Forward over the phone. “It shows the transcending power of music and determination that can exist, even in the most complex of circumstances.”
Asked about the potential political significance of having a film highlighting the plight of Israeli Arabs take home one of TriBeCa’s top awards, Inglee emphasized the importance of remembering the film is about people, not politics.
“One of the theme songs in the film, the title is a combination of Arabic and Hebrew which means ‘I’m not political,’” he said. “A major part of [the film’s] politics is its stripping down of politics and its representation of daily life from and emotional and a human perspective.”
“I think,” he concluded, “the choice by TriBeCa is a major triumph for human understanding.”
“Junction 48” will receive two more screenings through TriBeCa this coming Sunday, the festival’s closing day. After TriBeCa concludes “Junction 48” will open first in Israel, than internationally.
Talya Zax is the Forward’s culture intern. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter, @TalyaZax