Nudnik with a movie camera

‘Little Simiko’s Big Fantasy’ is a light comedy about a hapless guy who just wants to make films and inspire people.

December 23, 2011 17:38
3 minute read.
Clip from the movie

Little Simiko’s Big Fantasy 311. (photo credit: Courtesy)

Little Simiko’s Big Fantasy
Written and directed
by Arik Lubetzki.
Hebrew title: Hafantasia hagdola shel Simiko hakatan.
Running time: 88 minutes.
In Hebrew. Check with theaters for subtitle information

A throwback to the seretei bourekas (silly comedies) of the 1960s and ’70s, Little Simiko’s Big Fantasy is essentially a television sitcom stretched out to movie length. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t enjoyable, but you should know what you’re in for. Arik Lubetzki, the writer/director of what I imagine is an semiautobiographical film, has a background in television.

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For those who aren’t familiar with the seretei bourekas – and there were dozens of them – they typically featured quirky, Mizrachi, down-on-their luck protagonists and a funny group of guys from the neighborhood.

In this 21st-century version, Simiko (Tzion Baruch), a lovable goateed loser, is not trying to open a restaurant, marry a blonde rich girl or get involved in petty crime. Instead, he has decided he wants to break into movies. Partly, he thinks he can get rich quick this way (Israeli filmmakers I’ve interviewed would tell him that’s an illusion), but he really wants to tell stories, to create movies that inspire people. Simiko, who works in a felafel stand owned by Jackie (Uri Gavriel, for once not playing a terrorist or a criminal), is too clueless to find out how movies generally get made. He doesn’t know he should write a screenplay, then submit it to the Israel Film Fund and see if it gets financing. Instead, he uses his savings and hits up Jackie for some cash, then sets about making the film.

He gets the idea for the story when his friends take him out to a strip club after he wins a prize for making the best movie in a community center filmmaking class. He sees the bleached blonde dancers from the former Soviet Union and realizes how desperate they are to make money, but he doesn’t want a lap dance. He has a fiancée at home, played by Neta Garty, the actress who starred in Avi Nesher’s Turn Left at the End of the World. She is a preschool teacher who dreams of opening her own school. But he can’t get the dancers out of his head and decides he has to make a film about an Israeli who falls in love with a stripper.

He goes out, rents cameras, writes a script seemingly overnight and tries to cast the film. Most of the laughs in the movie come from his attempts to turn his buddies into movie stars. Let’s just say they are slow to grasp the nuances of film acting. The friend he chooses for the role is a guy who is so shy, he can’t ask out the girl he works with every day, a waitress in Jackie’s felafel place. She is Ukrainian and is a far better actress than the former beauty queens Jackie wants him to cast. But she is dating a rich guy with a big car, and every time he shows up she leaves the scene in the middle to head off with him.

The whole shoot is a series of comic mishaps, but it’s very much in the tradition of movies like Tom DiCillo’s Living in Oblivion, David Mamet’s State and Main, and Christopher Guest’s For Your Consideration, which lampoon the world of independent filmmaking.

Tzion Baruch, who stars in the Israeli television series The Arbitrator, gives a nice comic performance as the obsessed Simiko. He makes the character into a likable nudnik, even though you know that in real life a guy like this would be just a plain nudnik.

The late New Yorker critic Pauline Kael once wrote that many movie critics acted as if they wanted to see The Seventh Seal, the Ingmar Bergman dramatic allegory about life and death, every day. As Israeli movies have undergone their renaissance over the past 10 years, the majority of highquality films have been serious, even heavy, drama. But audiences love comedies, and it’s healthy to see something light once in a while, just as it’s healthy to eat something light once in a while. Little Simiko’s Big Fantasy certainly won’t ruin your diet.

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