David & Kamal Kikuo Kawasaki

David & Kamal Kikuo Kawasaki
"An unlikely adventure, an impossible friendship"; it's as good a tagline as any for a watery introduction to conflict in Israel for youth, which is essentially what David & Kamal is. Running at a merciful 78 minutes, Kikuo Kawasaki's film about two nine-year-old boys (one Jewish-American, the other Arab) who spend an eventful day in Jerusalem, is hard to take seriously for those not inclined to overlook a shoddy screenplay and shaky child actors. For a while, it seems suspect that any type of adventure might happen at all. David (Yoni Rosenzweig) has just arrived in Jerusalem to visit his estranged father, whom he hasn't seen in years, but instead of spending time together, he's left in the care of his father's girlfriend. When she takes him into the Old City to find a rare coin that David is eager to buy for his collection, Kamal (Abdalla El Akal), an Arab street youth eavesdropping in a corner, learns of David's wealth. Plagued by a tyrannical grandfather and desperate to escape to America, he steals a pouch of coins from David. After the two boys haggle over money, David, determined to get his coins back, promises Kamal hundreds of dollars for their return. The next day, when David runs away from his father's apartment to trade the money for his coins, he ends up teaming with Kamal to escape local bullies and, later, the soldiers that are now looking for him. As they outrun the army and dodge street urchins, the two grow closer and come to realize just how different their lives are. With the aesthetic and pacing of a 1995 Lifetime movie, Kawasaki conveys a mildly politicized film, only ever apparent when Israeli soldiers begin a manhunt for Kamal, whom they believe kidnapped the hapless David, and, later, when Kamal is told David's grandfather "doesn't like Arabs much." Undoubtedly, David & Kamal is more about class differences than ethnic and religious rifts, and while this may suit a younger audience just fine, it can only fall short for politically minded adults. Further, apart from the circumstances of how they met, it's hard to discern why this friendship is even significant. The two boys are totally unconvincing as friends (El Akal, with a few more credits to his name, is more believable as a scrappy street youth than first-time actor Rosenzweig) and rarely discuss anything that even hints at political undertones. Really, it's a film that could be set anywhere, and would still fall flat. The young cast of David & Kamal may be smaller and cuter than what you're used to, but Kawasaki's film lacks the gravitas to make this "unlikely friendship" even remotely likable. No extras are included. (Seminal)