Tel Aviv On Fire

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Luxembourg | 2018 | 97 minutes | Sameh Zoabi

In this wry, insightful comedy, a production intern on a popular Palestinian telenovela makes nice with an Israeli checkpoint commander, who happens to have his own ideas for improving the show. What could go wrong?

"A witty and warmhearted look at a divided land."—The Hollywood Reporter

In this clever comedy from writer/director Sameh Zoabi, Salam is a hapless 30-something production assistant on his uncle's TV show, a popular Palestinian soap opera called "Tel Aviv On Fire." Set in 1967, just a few months before the start of the Six-Day War, the show is a huge hit with audiences on both sides of the divide. Things start looking up for Salam when an offhand remark impresses the show's star and results in his promotion to writer. The promotion even impresses Miriam, Salam's ex-girlfriend, whom he hopes to win back. Living in Jerusalem, he must pass through the Ramallah checkpoint every day to get to the studio. One day he's interrogated by Israeli military commander Assi, whose wife just happens to be a huge fan of the show. Assi is full of ideas for improving the script (and impressing his wife), which works to Salam's advantage—until Assi and the show's producers want to take the story in distinctly different directions. With the season finale looming, it's up to Salam to figure out a resolution that will keep everyone happy.

Justine Barda

Director Biography
Sameh Zoabi was born in 1975 in Iskal, a Palestinian village near the city of Nazareth. He graduated from Tel Aviv University with a dual degree in Film Studies and English Literature before earning a Fulbright Fellowship to earn his MFA in Filmmaking from Columbia University in 2005. With films like Tel Aviv On Fire (2018), Zoabi seeks to invoke humor in difficult narratives, stating, "We talk about Palestine being a place that is very hard, but I always remember people laughing all the time." In addition to filmmaking, Zoabi is an adjunct professor at NYU Tisch School of the Arts, Hunter College, and Columbia University's MFA program, teaching courses in direction, production, and screenwriting.

Sponsored by Diageo Americas, Inc., The Fools

  • Director: Sameh Zoabi
  • Principal Cast: Kais Nashef, Lubna Azabal, Yaniv Biton, Nadim Sawalha, Maisa Abd Elhadi
  • Country: Luxembourg, France, Israel, Belgium
  • Year: 2018
  • Running Time: 97 minutes
  • Producer: Amir Harel, Bernard Michaux
  • Screenplay: Dan Kleinman, Sameh Zoabi
  • Cinematographers: Laurent Brunet
  • Editors: Catherine Schwartz
  • Music: Andre Dziezuk
  • Website: Official Film Website
  • Awards: Mostra de Venise 2018 (Best Actor); Haifa Film Festival 2018 (Best Film, Screenplay); Festival International de Saint Jean de Luz (Grand Prize); Monte-Carlo Film Festival 2019 (Best Screenplay)
  • Filmography: Under the Same Sun (2014); Family Albums (Doc., 2012); Man Without a Cell Phone (2010)
  • Language: Arabic, Hebrew
  • Has Subtitles: Yes
  • Format: DCP
  • US Distributor: Cohen Media Group
  • International Sales: Indie Sales