After winning a short film competition at Sundance 2004, Israeli directors Erez Tadmor and Guy Nattiv obtained funding to develop Strangers into a feature length film. Influenced by the Dogme95 au naturel approach to filmmaking, the directors set out without a script, but with 2 actors and 1 camera. The plan was to film from 8 AM to midnight every day and see what developed.
The original short film premise was of Israeli and Palestinian coming together to oppose neo-Nazism. With the Dogme95 approach, the feature morphed into an Israeli-Palestinian romance in the atmosphere of the WC 2006 final in Berlin.
Not just the dialog, but the entire story was improvised. During filming, the Second Lebanon War broke out, interrupting production while the directors went to Israel. They then followed actress Lubna Azabal to Paris and finished developing the characters and story there.
Which is a long way of explaining why this film feels like two stories where what happens doesn’t always make sense. Perhaps it is telling that over 2 years, this film was shown at 41 film festivals before going to DVD.
The 2 halves of the movie
The first half in Berlin is romantic and cute. The actors fall in lust (both on screen and in real life) playing soccer in an empty Berlin rental. Shouldn’t all soccer players fall in love that way? The second half, however, is more about being undocumented and reconciling the Lebanon war from a distance.
To me, this is the best scene in the movie:
Eyal (Liron Levo): The Palestinians, I blame them that Israel don’t have a good football team. Because all the good people, they go to be pilots and they go to be tankmen. And the Palestinians, they go to be terrorists. If there was peace, they go to be football players. And in the finals, it would be Palestine against Israel maybe.
Rana: So the Israeli team, they are bad? That’s what you say?
Eyal: Yes they are very bad. They play like Arabs.
5 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 5