TJFF 2015: Orange People
Making its Canadian Premiere at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival is Orange People. Hanna Azoulay Hasfari, one of the film’s stars, also wrote the script and this film marks her directorial debut.
This drama focuses on three generations of Moroccan Israeli women. Zohara (Rita Shukrun) is the matriarch and something of a psychic. She sits outside her home and people pay her to “dream” of what their future will be. Her daughter, Simone (Esti Yerushalmi), appears to have this gift as well, although she calls it narcolepsy and takes medication for it. Zohara’s sister, Fanny (director Hasfari), is the family’s black sheep, having been gone for 16 years; she shows up unannounced. Zohar, Simone’s daughter, is a high school student who does not have the gift…at least not yet. Rounding out the family is Simone’s husband, Jackie (Yoram Toledano), a police officer.
At its core, Orange People is a redemption tale. Zohara, who was a child bride in an arranged marriage a long time ago, has the greatest need for redemption not only because what she is facing is the most serious of everyone’s ordeals, but because she doesn’t have much time left on this earth. Simone’s shot at redemption is making a success out of the small restaurant she owns, a task made more difficult when Russian competition opens across the street. For Fanny, redemption is needed for transgressions that occurred 16 years earlier. Zohar, the teen, has no need for redemption, but she’s certainly learning what it looks like.
Hanna Azoulay Hasfari’s sophomore screenplay and freshman directorial debut is a rough outing. She has a good story foundation and a keen eye for blocking and framing shots, but she struggles to fully develop her ideas. This not only hinders the story, it’s also harmful to the characters. By the film’s closing credits, not enough substance was left on-screen to make us care how it ends.