Israeli filmmaker Nadav Lapid’s superb art-film thriller and incisive social critique “Policeman” is finally getting released in the U.S., three years after it won the top prize at the Locarno Film Festival. It’s been called one of the strongest debut films on the world cinema stage. And Lapid’s follow-up “The Kindergarten Teacher,” which just premiered in Cannes, proves that Lapid is no one-hit wonder. He’s an auteur-to-watch, with big ideas and aesthetic mastery to match. We can thank small distributor Corinth Releasing for picking up the film, but it will be the critics that will need to drive this micro-release.
And so far, there are plenty of raves. With such strong critical support, it’s surprising that it’s taken so long for the film to make it to U.S. shores. And after all, it’s not like Israeli films are so rare on U.S. screens. Israeli cinema is one of the few national cinemas that has made a dent in the North American marketplace. But “Policeman” is critical of Israel, raising the spectre of the “Israeli sickness,” as Lapid told me in this interview for Filmmaker Magazine. Most of the Israeli films that come to the U.S. do convey the problems that exist in contemporary Israel, particularly with respect to the Palestinian issue. But “Policeman” is that unique film that tackles Israeli identity.
As Lapid told me, “I think it’s problematic for Israeli filmmakers to show Palestinian society when they would better focus on their own. For me, one of the fascinating things is the collective soul of Israel, the actual state of things which is found in the depth of the everydayness. I’m much more interested in dealing with this Israeli everydayness than to go to look for stories in a refugee camp in Nablus.”
Speaking of his films’ hermetic quality, he added: “I think it’s something that characterizes the biggest sickness of Israeli society. I believe that Israel society has developed a hermetic way of looking at the world, and it justifies everything, like we are the victims, and we are in permanent danger, and it creates a perfect order. I don’t want to be too political, but this way of looking at the world is completely stupid and crazy and detached from reality, or at least , very superficial, but at the same time, it makes life easier. So Israelis don’t really love to mix.”