Yana's Friends

on October 12, 2001 by Rachel Deahl
   It's unfortunately apropos that Arik Kaplun's oddly appealing 1999 feature, "Yana's Friends," should be making into American theatres at this historical moment, as the best bit in the film involves a sexual encounter enjoyed by a couple in gas masks.

   Set in Israel in 1991, "Yana's Friends" revolves around a disparate group of immigrants who come together, as lovers and friends, with the unfortunate circumstances of war (the Gulf War to be exact) looming in the background. The focal point of the film is the coupling of Yana (Evelyn Kapul) and Eli (Nir Levi). A Russian immigrant, Yana is abandoned by her husband shortly after moving into Eli's apartment in Israel. With creditors hunting her down and a baby on the way, Yana finds herself broke and helpless in a strange land. A promiscuous film student who relishes one-night stands and taping his distraught new roomie, Eli becomes enchanted with Yana and repeatedly proves his worth by coming to help her out of jam after jam. Enduring missile attacks from Iraq, during which Israeli citizens are forced to confine themselves in a safe room in their house, Yana and Eli's love blossoms.

   Kaplun bolsters his heartfelt material with a subplot involving a Russian couple who use their catatonic grandfather to beg for money and end up beginning a war with a neighboring a street musician as they all jockey for sidewalk space. The side story becomes even more interesting when Yana and Eli's landlady recognizes grandpa as her long-lost lover.

   Amusing with one unforgettable gag, Kaplun's film does a passable job of portraying the hardships endured by immigrants but is more notable for placing a light-hearted tale in a decidedly heavy time and place.    Starring Evelyn Kaplun, Nir Levi, Shmil Ben-Ari, Moscu Alcalay and Dalia Friedland. Directed by Arik Kapul. Written by Arik Kapul and Simeon Vinokur. Produced by Marek Rozenbaum, Moshe Levinson, Uri Sabag and Einat Bikel. A Friends of Film release. Romantic comedy. Hebrew- and Russian-language; subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 90 min.

Tags: Evelyn Kaplun, Nir Levi, Shmil Ben-Ari, Moscu Alcalay, Dalia Friedland, Arik Kapul, foreign, Hebrew, Russian, immigrants, family drama, comedy, romance

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