Celebrated Israeli writer-director Nadav Lapid makes intensely personal, cunningly political, and propulsive films brimming with an energy often mirrored by his lead characters. AHED’S KNEE, his fourth feature and co-winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes, is arguably his most radical film yet — one steeped in torment and angst with irrepressible moments of despairing romanticism emanating from Y, an obvious alter ego to Lapid.
Played with fierce physicality by choreographer Avshalom Pollak, Y is a filmmaker and artist who, in the midst of casting for a project inspired by real-life Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, receives an invitation to present one of his films in a small town in the arid Arava Valley. There he is met by vast desert expanses — which he films on his phone and sends to his ailing mother — and his host, Yahalom (Nur Fibak), a passionate admirer of his work who arranged the screening in her role as deputy director of the Ministry of Culture’s library department. The two instantly engage in a physical and intellectual game of cat and mouse, but when Y is asked to sign a waiver declaring that he will stick to government-sanctioned topics in his introductory address, he cannot contain his indignation at the Ministry’s censorious agenda and the ills behind it.
A formally brazen and, at times, purposefully assaultive work that questions an artist’s moral imperative to resist cultural and political oppression and state-backed propaganda, AHED’S KNEE pulls no punches. It feverishly and viscerally confronts residual trauma that festers like an open wound in a cycle of violence, in which the oppressed becomes the oppressor. Lapid’s film enacts a manifesto-like gesture that demands a response — and silence is not an option.
“Political outrage fuses with personal anguish in the Israeli director Nadav Lapid’s raucous, hard-edged dramatic rant about a filmmaker in crisis.” —Richard Brody, The New Yorker “Nadav Lapid does not make polite films: they spit and snarl and get way up in your face, brashly and constantly switching tack to disrupt your viewing pleasure, even if that means interrupting their own train of thought.” —Guy Lodge, Film of the Week “What makes AHED’S KNEE so powerful is the way the movie detonates before our eyes.” —Bilge Ebiri, Vulture