Who Doesn't Want To Be A Star?
Everybody wants to make a movie. That includes Simico. He works at Jackie’s Hummus Place and has just won a prize for his short film at the local community center. In the Israeli comedy “Little Simico’s Big Fantasy”, Simico (Tzion Baruch) gets an idea for a feature film when his friends take him out to a strip club to celebrate after class. Simico will create “The Stripper’s Diary”. Despite the title, this will not be a porn film. It will be a love story about a typical working class guy from the neighborhood who falls in love with a stripper.
“Little Simico’s Big Fantasy” will lead off the seventh annual Summer Israeli Film Showcase on June 20 at 7:30 PM at the ERJCC Kaplan Theatre, 5601 S. Braeswood.
Featured at this year’s Sephardic Jewish Film Festival in New York, “Little Simico” takes place in an urban Israeli neighborhood where no one is Ashkenazi except for the blond strippers in the club. Simico’s plan is to recruit actors from the neighborhood, no matter how appropriate their acting talent. He casts his super-shy friend Machlouf (Shlomi Koriat), who can’t act and can barely speak as the male lead. “He’s all soul, he has intensity in his eyes”, Simico explains. Similarly, Simico recruits his friends for the film crew. He cajoles neighbors to shoot the film at their shops or apartments.
Herein lies the tension in the film. Simico’s friends consent to play a part in his fantasy because they want to hit on the girls or see their stores get free publicity. Simico however becomes increasingly obsessed with getting his film made. Nothing stops him: the lack of Machlouf’s acting talent, temperamental crew, Jackie’s hitting on one of the actresses, lack of money, his dad getting admitted to the local hospital after a heart attack, his upcoming wedding. Clearly Simico’s obsession with making his film plays out in a borderline personality disorder. Simico’s interactions with all of his friends, neighbors and film crew are defined by his obsession. Yet Simico isn’t a dark or schizoid personality. For example, his film--although it is about a stripper--doesn’t use pornography to degrade women. He’s essentially a character on a creative quest faced with obstacles at every turn.
Like Federico Fellini’s “8½” or Steve Martin’s “Bowfinger”, this is a movie about making a movie. Films in this genre are sometimes a director’s personal tribute to the love of film and the world of imagination and fantasy. Sometimes films of this genre (in the case of Robert Altman’s “The Player”) are an attack on those who see film not as an art form but merely as a way to make money.
“Simico” director Arik Lubetzky doesn’t appear to be going after the art crowd. In form and style, “Simico” is an update of the popular Israeli genre of “bourekas films”: low-end situation comedies that portrayed Israelis of Middle Eastern and Sephardic heritage aimed. Unlike most of the old bourekas films, which emphasized Sephardic backwardness and vulgarity, “Simico” is a character-driven film. The casting is excellent. One of the enjoyable feelings one gets is how authentic the characters appear. Warned by his boss, “the film is way over your head”, Simico resorts to borrowing $10,000 shekels from a local religious loan shark. Simico’s friends might abandon his fantasy when things get too real. But the loan shark stands outside all of Simico’s dreams. And of course, when Simico fails to complete his film and pay off the loan shark on time, violence ensues. Without spoiling the plot, I did say that this film is a comedy.
“Little Simico’s Big Fantasy” will be the first of three Israeli comedies to be shown in this year’s Film Showcase. “Salsa Tel Aviv” will screen on July 19. The 1971 classic “The Policeman” will screen on August 23. All films start at 7:30 PM and will be shown at the ERJCC.
For details, visit erjcchouston.org/summerfilm