Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi

"Grim"

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi Review


Welcome to the Middle East, a land where you can be blown up at any second, where you can see the beautiful sights of an extreme desert, where you can feel hotter than hell, and where you can end up watching Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi. Happy Birthday, Mr. Mograbi is a film that is part Mideastern political commentary, part real estate deal gone awry, and The Blair Witch Project, part II.

That's right: we've entered the land of the staged documentary.

Avi Mograbi is a struggling documentary filmmaker. He has trouble from a real-estate snafu made years ago that resulted in his lot being 100 meters larger and the adjacent lot being 100 meters smaller. He has trouble from a producer who keeps asking him to redo change the focus of a documentary. He has trouble from Arabs who wish him to be an inside man who gets footage Arab ruins in areas of Israel where Arabs are no longer allowed. He has trouble with being assigned to capture pre-celebration footage of the 50th anniversary of Israel... a date that happens to coincide with his 42nd birthday.

With this much plot, the big surprise of this 77-minute film is that it ends up being so god-awful boring. This is due mostly to Avi Mograbi's desire not only to film everything that happens, but also to film it in a bizarre method. He films people and trucks and then plays the footage backwards. He uses a Pi-like rig to film himself searching for a friend. He hooks up another car in front of his own so that he doesn't miss a single bit of conversation that occurs.

Some of this ends up being funny. Some of this results in hauntingly comic images (i.e. a parade float rabbit with a gas mask on and a Hebrew version of the song "Mortal Kombat"), but for the most part this results in an amazingly slow and nauseating film. Why is it nauseating? Simple: the film also uses an 8mm hi-fi to capture several conversations, and this video camera can make anyone sick to their stomach.

This is a film that makes me sick. This is a film that justifies a phobia of subtitles. This is my first Israeli film, and, with the sour taste it has left in my mouth, I am tempted to make it my last.

Aka Yom Huledet Same'ach Mar Mograbi.



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