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Military Fatigue

Yaron Scharf/2014 Tribeca Film Festival

Zero Motivation (2014)

Tribeca Film Festival winner for Best Narrative Feature and Nora Ephron Prize, Talya Lavie’s “Zero Motivation” is an absurdist comedy that readily plays with fire. Revolving around a hapless female troop stationed on a desert artillery base in the south of Israel, the film wastes no time in targeting the Holy Grail among taboos: making light of the Holocaust.

Divided into three chapters, it primarily concerns the irreconcilable differences between military regimentation and estrogenic impulses. It centers on whiny princess Daffi (Nelly Tagar) and dour gamer Zohar (Dana Ivgy), both slackers who dread the administrative duties like coffee serving and paper shredding to which female soldiers are consigned.

Yearning for a post in Tel Aviv, Daffi assumes her multitudinous transfer requests have finally been granted when she takes on newly arrived Tehila (Yonit Tobi) to be her replacement. But Tehila turns out to be a lovesick civilian who infiltrated the base to stalk her romantic interest, and commits hara-kiri once he jilts her properly. Her ghost then possesses the prudish Russian, Irena (Tamara Klingon).

Venturing beyond “Private Benjamin” and the 2007 Israeli female soldier drama “Close to Home” all the way off the deep end, “Zero Motivation” makes over the military genre with grotesquely stereotypical feminine traits and themes: whining, crying, stalking, romantic longing, BFFs squabbling, petty revenge, poor leadership skills, supernatural conjuring and even two-part harmonizing.

These stereotypes don’t necessarily set feminism back. In a way the film is radically post-feminist, with women unapologetically succumbing to instincts both natural and cultural with no regard for the codes of conduct in the male-oriented microcosm. Daffi still fumbles her way to her coveted post in the end, even though her careerist superior Rama (Shani Klein) has played by the rules and still gets passed over for a promotion.


Opens on Dec. 3 in Manhattan

Written and directed by Talya Lavie; director of photography, Yaron Scharf; edited by Arik Lahav-Leibovich; music by Ran Bagno; production design by Ron Zikno; costumes by Yael Kredo; produced by Eilon Ratzkovsky, Yossi Uzrad, Guy Jacoel and Yochanan Kredo; released by Zeitgeist Films. In Hebrew, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 41 minutes. This film is not rated.

WITH: Dana Ivgy (Zohar), Nelly Tagar (Daffi), Shani Klein (Rama), Heli Twito (Livnat) and Meytal Gal (Liat).


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