Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Political Geography of Coffee Shoppes: Tel Aviv

We recently watched the 2006 Israeli film The Bubble, in which one of the main characters is a coffee shop. From the essential "making of" feature on the DVD, I learned that Orna and Ella on Sheinkin Street was not created for the film -- it actually is a gathering spot for the modern young adults of this seaside city. The title of the film refers to the relative isolation that Tel Aviv -- in particular that street and even more in particular its cafes and clubs -- has enjoyed from the strife that grips much of Israel.

In the "making of" piece, the role of coffee in defining this space is described clearly:
"Politics in Tel Aviv are a little confused. There is poitical awareness, usually left-winged, but not much action is taken between one espresso to the next."
As the film unfolds, of course, we find that reality does have ways of intruding on the most hip and detached communities. The intersecting geographies of homophobia and Israel-Palestine strife dominate this film. The "bubble" is a space between xenophobia and homophobia that Director Eytan Fox masterfully compresses throughout the film. The film's conclusion is the ultimate collapse of that space.

The trailer above and the NY Times review by Jeannette Catsoulis are good introductions to the film. After the film, I highly recommend seeing the "making-of" extra on the DVD, which provides valuable insights  on the variety of contested social and political spaces in which the filming itself took place. After that, I recommend reading a few of the critical reviews, in particular John Esther's interview with Eytan Fox, Brandon Judell's Blowing Up Middle-Eastern Rancor with Copulation, and especially Michael Bronski's analysis for Z magazine.

Finally, if any readers of this blog end up at Orna and Ella in Tel Aviv, please let me know how the coffee is!

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