BY ALLEN RABINOWITZ / AJT //
The challenges of re-creating and maintaining an interrupted relationship between a daydreaming, feckless Israeli father and his teenage American-raised daughter are explored in director Maya Kenig’s “Off White Lies.”
Co-written by Kenig and Dana Diment, the comedy-drama follows Shaulov (Gur Bentvich), a down-on-his-luck inventor, as he tries to reconnect with 13-year-old Libby (Elya Inbar), who has been sent by her mother in California to live with him after a long separation. Complicating the situation is Shaulov’s homeless condition and a war against Hezbollah taking place in south Lebanon, too close to his friends and the shelter they might offer in the north of Israel.
To survive such conditions, Shaulov creates an alternative reality based on fanciful stories, and he soon indoctrinates Libby in the process. She resists at first but, being her father’s daughter, soon picks up on it. Libby feels Shaulov’s fanciful twisting of facts – his “white lies” – are more beige than a simple white.
More accurately, they are “off-white lies,” as she terms them.
Shaulov’s inventions are comical, ranging from semi-cigarettes (half-size for smoking while waiting for a bus) to fake dog turds that serve as perfect hiding places for house keys. His newest invention is a device that sucks in and purifies cigarette smoke, a perfect device for places like over-crowded bomb shelters in the north.
But his greatest invention is the life he creates for himself and Libby. It’s part of a little lie that leads them into the home of an army officer and his family, a setting where much of the film’s action plays out.
The movie is filled with funny and touching moments as the characters grow and mature. All this emotion comes together nicely in a sweet and tender scene when Libby and Shaulov are at a restaurant and Libby learns it’s her father’s birthday. She goes over to the restaurant’s jukebox and picks a song that she thinks is a perfect selection: Supertramp’s “Give a Little Love.”
She sings along, we all get a little teary-eyed, and father and daughter start down the long road of a real and meaningful relationship. The little lies continue, however, and much is revealed about all the characters – fear and infidelity, strength, love, growth and maturity.
A French-Israeli production, “Off White Lies” was nominated for many international film honors, including many categories in the 2011 Israel Film Academy Ophir Awards and a Haggiag Award for Bentvich as Best Actor at the 2011 Jerusalem Film Festival.
With such a film as her first full-length feature, Kenig proves to be a filmmaker of great promise. Her protagonist may be a compulsive liar, but Kenig brings out the humanity in Shaulov. It turns out, after all is said and done, that both father and daughter are coming of age and are on the verge of growing up.
Editor’s note: Visit ajff.org for a full schedule of Atlanta Jewish Film Festival movies.