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Ma’aleh School of Television, Film and the Arts graduate Eliran Malka, the writer and director of 2010’s 71 square meters, rejected an assertion that his film was about a young Sephardi man feeling out of place with his new Ashkenazi in-laws. On the surface, perhaps, but it’s “not the essence of the film,” he says. Rather, it’s the universal story of foreignness, about the fish out of water, not feeling a sense of belonging.
The protagonist Chezi returns to his deceased parents’ house just 24 hours before it is to be demolished, and while visiting it, memories of his parents come flooding back to him. Malka is pensive in his filming, as his camera dwells on images of the neighborhood and the house, allowing the audience lovely, dream-like moments.
One scene in particular of Chezi’s sephardi father having dinner with his soon-to-be Ashkenazi in-laws is particularly emotional, as the father feels rejected by his son and out of place at the table. Chezi rejects the mezuza his father gives him for his wedding, but ultimately, hangs it in the house years later. 71 square meters is a story of forgiveness and coming to terms with one’s identity. It was the 2010 Audience Favorite at the International Student Film Festival in Tel Aviv.
Malka, who says proudly of his time at Ma’aleh that “I don’t think I could do my film in another film school,” is currently working on a comedy series about the underworld of “shababnikim,” small time haredi crooks who move between the world of crime and their ultra-Orthodox community, similar to 2010’s Holy Rollers.
“There is a burst of TV series about the religious world in the last three or four years,” Malka says. “All of them came from one point of view, of the religious guy who wants to be secular. He wants to go out, to be free. And it’s most of the time a heavy, heavy drama series, very tragic, and sad. This is the first try to do something else. Israelis always see haredim as tragic people. So I hope this will work out and open a new point of view of the religious world.”