Netta Barzilai has a cameo in the new Netflix movie, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga which was released on Friday.
The movie, directed by David Dobkin and starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams, is obviously an attempt to introduce American viewers to the wild, outrageous world of Eurovision, which is so beloved by hundreds of millions of fans worldwide but is virtually unknown in the US.
Ferrell and McAdams play an aspiring song duo, Fire Saga, from a small town in Iceland who may or may not be brother and sister (don’t ask). Although their song is considered sub-par, they become Iceland’s official contestants through a fluke. As they vie for victory in the contest, the small-town friends are introduced to the decadent delights of the Eurovision world, personified by Alexander Lemtov, the Russian contestant, played by a scene-stealing Dan Stevens. In a nod to the contest’s popularity with the gay community around the world, his character hints at being gay but denies it, insisting there are no gay men in Russia.
Barzilai, who won the 2018 Eurovision Song Contest with her empowerment anthem, “Toy,” appears with a number of former Eurovision winners, including Conchita Wurst of Austria, in a scene where the contestants in the fictional contest attend a party and sing upbeat songs. She comes out of a limo belting out the Black Eyed Peas’ “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night,” surrounded by dancers and a few moments later stands next to Ferrell as they both sing.
Israel is mentioned one time, when the song from Israel is one of the last two finalists.
Demi Lovato has a key role as Fire Saga’s fiercest competition. Lovato made headlines last year with her enraptured Instagram posts about how much being baptized in the Jordan River and touring Israel meant to her, only to walk back the posts after the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was brought to her attention and it was revealed that her trip was financed by the Israeli government.
A bearded Pierce Brosnan plays Ferrell’s gruff father and a number of Icelandic actors have roles. The fact that all these Icelandic people are speaking English somehow seems less weird than when movie characters from countries with more widely spoken languages spout only English dialogue.
In the past, Eurovision has been shy about being spoofed or even portrayed on screen. When Israeli director Eytan Fox made the 2013 movie, Cupcakes, about friends from Tel Aviv who become Israel’s official contestants, Eurovision would not allow its name to be used and the contest was called ‘Universong’.
The humor in the movie is broad and silly and the more you know about Eurovision, the more you will enjoy it. That said, at its most outrageous, Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga doesn’t come close to the mind-blowing excesses and high-energy camp of the real Eurovision.
But it was made by people with a real love for one of the silliest and most joyful events of the year and that comes through. And love Eurovision or hate it, most Israelis will be glued to the screen in 2021 when – if all goes well – Eden Alene, Israel’s latest representative, will sing her heart out on the stage.