18 KILOMETERS *** Written and directed by Avi Levy. 81 minutes. Hebrew title: Shemonah-Esrei Kilometerim. In Hebrew and Arabic, with English and Hebrew titles. 18 Kilometers is a thoughtful, well-acted film about Sderot and Gaza that suffers from a malady that once afflicted nearly all Israeli films. I've identified it as "group-itis." This is when a director tries to create a sweeping canvas, focusing on a large group of characters. In theory, this can produce interesting results, but in reality, the director usually weakens the story that he is trying to tell by failing to develop the characters. Just when we start getting interested in a single character or narrative, the movie shifts to another. Movies like this, and sadly, 18 Kilometers fits into this category, veer back and forth between not giving enough back-story to make the action comprehensible, and clumsy exposition. And it really is sad that a movie about a subject as charged, fascinating and important as the daily lives of citizens of Sderot during the bombardments of the last few years doesn't work any better. There certainly are stories worth focusing on in this film, which features a day in the lives of Sderot residents, with a few moments set in Gaza. Boaz (Oren Habut), is an army officer who longs to get married and start a family. He lives with his brother, Yuval (Ido Bason) a laconic, resentful would-be musician, and their mother, Miriam (Shifra Milstein), a lonely widow who cannot forgive Shalom (Shmil Ben Ari), the postman who killed her husband in a traffic accident. Boaz starts dating Keren (Merev Osofosky), a fetching widow and mother whose husband was killed during military service. Just down the street, Hassan (Jamil Huri), a photojournalist from Gaza, lives with his wife and daughter, who goes to school with Keren's child. Hassan was pressured to give information to the IDF so that his daughter, who had cancer, could get treatment in Israel. Now, he is tormented by his decision. His wife keeps in touch with his sister in Gaza, who is married to a wanted Hamas member. It's clear where too much of this is going from the beginning, and although the film is short, it takes its time to get there. But most of the acting is wonderful, particularly the performances by Oren Habut, Shifra Milstein and Shmil Ben Ari. Avi Levy has made a film with many impressive moments, and I look forward to seeing what he does next.