Revolution 101 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Directed by Doron Tsabari.
Written by Tsabari, Ari Folman and
Yossi Madmoni. 112 minutes.
Hebrew titles: Ha Madrich Le Mahapecha.
In Hebrew, check theaters for subtitle information.
Doron Tsabari’s Revolution 101, a documentary about of how he took on the broadcasting establishment, is an Israeli version of a Michael Moore film, and it features all the good and bad aspects of Moore’s work.
On the plus side, it’s lively, funny, carefully written and directed, and it takes on a target that it’s impossible to feel much sympathy for. On the other hand, the Israel Broadcasting Authority is a very easy target, and the film sometimes has a snarky, selfreverential quality. And while Tsabari couldn’t be more compromising in his pursuit of broadcast reform, he isn’t quite as honest and open about himself.
Oddly, the film was nominated for the Ophir Award (the Israeli Oscar) this year in the Feature Film category, although it is a documentary. Co-written by Waltz with Bashir director Ari Folman and Yossi Madmoni, the film features a few scenes, reminiscences from Tsabari’s childhood (about how the class nerds banded together to crash a popular kid’s party, as well as some memories of an earlier television era in Israel) that are reenacted with actors. But then the film quickly settles down to its focus, which is Tsabari’s quest to get the Israel Broadcast Authority to conform to its mandate, which is to provide Israeli television shows that are meaningful to local audiences. After he is refused work by the IBA, Tsabari starts to take a good, hard look at this familiar part of the Israeli landscape. Although it is completely government supported, television owners are charged a tax to fund it whether they watch or not. Tsabari documents, quite persuasively and with a great deal of humor, how it has existed for decades as a kind of government fiefdom, to give jobs to family and friends, and to focus on news that the government can use.
As far as most viewers are concerned, the IBA’s Channel One is simply a
spot on the dial between more interesting channels, and a place where
untalented and strident people simper or argue. But Tsabari takes it
seriously, and he makes a convincing case for why someone should. Along
with his long-time filmmaking partner Ori Inbar, he records the
government’s punitive measures against those who have fallen behind in
the so-called entertainment tax, including ordering the police to
impound their cars with no warning. This is one of the most effective
sections of the film, and it reminds viewers how destructive it can be
to allow such a powerful entity to operate without oversight.
Tsabari puts himself front and center throughout. While this makes the
story less of a dry, talking-heads documentary and gives viewers the
chance to get to know his mother, a hairdressing instructor who was
meant to be a movie star, it raises questions Tsabari doesn’t want to
answer. His mother sees him as a case of arrested development, and she
cheers when he finally moves in with his girlfriend and has a child with
her. We hear that his partner is frustrated at all the time he spends
on his fight against the IBA, and when their relationship falls apart,
we are meant to see it as a casualty of his struggle. I’m sure I wasn’t
alone in wondering what else was going on. But since this is a film
about his political fight, we don’t find out. And more information about
his personal life would be overkill. While Tsabari is an engaging
master of ceremonies, his attempt to make himself the focus at times
You wish him well, but in the end it isn’t crystal clear what the future
holds for the IBA. Has control of it simply shifted from one group of
cronies to another? On this issue, the film offers more platitudes than
facts. Since I saw it, every time I rest my gaze on Channel One before
clicking to another station, I wonder what Tsabari has accomplished and I
look forward to Revolution 2.0