Sweet Mud Dror Shaul

Sweet Mud Dror Shaul
If you’re thinking of joining a kibbutz, you might want to think twice, especially after seeing this lacerating Israeli feature on the subject. Set in 1974, Sweet Mud deals with the trials of 12-year-old Dviri and his mentally unstable mother Miri, the latter of whom is especially persecuted by the uptight, self-righteous, rule-crazy jerks who govern the collective. Totally intolerant of her fragile condition, the group immediately closes ranks when her older Swiss boyfriend visits and they summarily reject him without a thought for his lover. This quite understandably has the effect of turning Dviri against the people who run his life, shower him with guilt and bully his mother into ever-mounting depression and unhappiness. Writer/director Dror Shaul spares no one in his debunking of the kibbutz ethos. Maternal issues aside, the intimidation the children receive during their bar mitzvahs and the residents’ tendency towards smug brutality will have you clutching at your theatre seat and cursing the beleaguered protagonists’ tormentors. And as they tighten the noose around poor Miri, it’s not hard to see a self-fulfilling prophecy in the downward spiral of her deteriorating mental state. Still, the film isn’t gunning for stridency: the tenderness with which Dviri and his mother are drawn is extended to the rest of the community, who are given every opportunity to see the light and who, through sheer pig-headedness, refuse to do the humane thing. Rich in character detail (even the villains have their quirks) and reasonably well shot to boot, Sweet Mud proves to be a quiet evocation of a devastating experience, controlled in its drama but extremely powerful in practice. It had me riveted from beginning to end and I can’t recommend it more highly. (Mongrel Media)