(photo credit: OHAD ROMANO)
This summer in Israeli cinema is ironically full of comedies, but Shoshana Halutz Merkazi is definitely one to notice. It's no master piece but it's not trying to be one, its characters are all caricatures, making fun of themselves and everyone around them, without apologizing for a minute. The movie brings its audience 100 minutes of pure fun, with an educational twist on tolerance.
Oshri Cohen is Ami Shoshan, the center forward of Bnei Jerusalem, which is a fictional equivalence of Beitar, with the team's yellow and black colors and its famous temper. Shoshan, the team's star, goes out to a night club and tries to hit on the beautiful Mirit, played by out own wonder women Gal Gadot. But, alas, the gorgeous woman's boyfriend is Kushi, played by Eli Finish, a known gangster in Jerusalem. Kushi finds out about it, takes Shoshan to a back room to beat him up and before he takes it too far he comes up with an idea to really destroy him – he makes him call up a press conference to tell the world he is a proud homosexual. Shoshan and his manager, played by Mariano Idelamn, are both shocked by the idea of a gay Bnei Jerusalem player, but having no other choice, they gather the conference and tell the news to the media. The fans and team's reaction is extreme of course, in a way that gracefully mocks the stereotype of narrow minded Beitar fans, while they all go from adoring to hating him in a matter of seconds.
hoshan feels like his life is over when the team doesn't let him play and his fellow players make fun of him, but some things turn out pretty good. The club he used to go to turns into a gay club in his honor, with drag queens who give the movie a touch of glamour. Kushi's Arabic sidekick, played by Yossi Marshak falls in love with the main diva, played by Tal Kalai. He doesn't want to hear anyone referring to her as a man, and still chases after her, adding another stereotype mock to the table. Her two backup singers are played by Nicky Goldstein and Nisso Shalev, who is so charming he completely steals the show.
Another great turn out is that an LGBT organization turns to Shoshan to be their presenter, he is tempted by the money they are offering but ends up learning an important lesson about life. The organization's representatives are played by the two perfect castings, Rotem Keinan and Einat Weizman who play gay community stereotypes, with Weizman providing some of the funniest moments in the movie as the "not defining herself by gender" character.
Yaniv Biton who played Nahi, the gay fan of the team, played one of the smaller characters but gave the best acting performance of the movie, I just can't think back of his character without smiling.
Yes, the story is full of clichés, the jokes are predictable and the characters are over the top, but Shoshana Halutz Merkazi has managed to do something we haven't seen around here in a while. It managed to take the viewers to a fun ride, being very self aware in its humor and critical on society, while infusing a massage of tolerance into the whole thing. Loved it.