Gmar Gavi'a (Cup Final) (1991)




Director:     Eran Riklis. 

Starring:     Moshe Ivgy (Cohen),  Mohammed Bakri (Ziad),  Salim Dau (Mussa),  Bassam Zo'amat (Abu Eyash),  Yussuf Abu-Warda (George),  Suhel Haddad (Omar),  Gassan Abbas (Shukri),  Sharon Alexander (Lt. Gallili),  Johnny Arbid (Fatchi),  Sami Samir (Halil),  Meir Suissa (Dr. Beni),  Gadi Poor (Haimon),  Victor Kamar (Abu Yussef),  Rada Ibrahim (Yussef's Wife),  Roberto Pollak (Davidi). 

PLO squad in Lebanon take an Israeli soldier hostage; the Israeli only wants to see the world final soccer cup; his captors also love the game


June 1982.  Lebanon.  The Israeli army invades Lebanon, a country torn between the P.L.O. (Palestine Liberation Organization), the Falangists (Christian Armed Forces) and the Druze (Islamic off-shoot religious community).   The story takes place during the second weeks of the war in Lebanon.  In the Israeli controlled areas the soldiers look for terrorists.  There are still some P.L.O. pockets.  The battles are heavy. 

On the radio the talk is also about the World Cup Soccer Games in Barcelona, Spain that will open tonight.  Cohen is an Israeli soldier who takes photographs of the troops.  He is not much of a soldier and he will and does say that about himself.  He is much more interested in watching the World Cup games.  He had many soccer match tickets and hotel reservations for Barcelona.  And then wouldn't you know it.  They start a war and he is out a lot of money.  One of his fellow soldiers says to him that he told him not to vote for the Likud (right wing) party.  Cohen thinks they could have at least had some consideration for the ticket buying public. 

Cohen is in a two vehicle convoy (a truck and a jeep) and they have to stop because they don't know exactly which way to go.  When the jeep backs up there is a terrific explosion that destroys the jeep.  The truck gets a direct hit and many of the soldiers are killed out right.  In fact, there are only two survivors:  Cohen and another soldier named Galilli.  The rag-tag group of P.L.O. supporters take the two Israeli soldiers captive.  One of the guards slaps Galilli and then Cohen in the face.  The P.L.O leader named Ziad looks at Cohen's tickets to the World Cup.  He comments to Cohen in English:  "Spain  --  too late."   Yes, Cohen knows that obviously.  A man they call the doctor talks a look at Galilli's arm wound and bandages it.  When an Israeli plane flies overhead a guard kicks Cohen several times out of frustration and resentment.  The doctor stops any further kicking.  While Cohen remains low-key, Galilli is somewhat confrontational.  He tells his captors that he won't be treated like this. 

Zaid tells his crew that they are going to Beirut.  On the way they run into a comrade named Shukri.  Zaid stops long enough to tell the hot-headed fellow that his crew doesn't want any problems.  Some of the guys get lemons from an orchard full of lemon trees.  Zaid then talks to the young, diabetic Fatchi.  He doesn't really want Fatchi to come along.  He doesn't want to see him get hurt.  But Fatchi insists that he is going along with everyone else.  A little later Fatchi gives himself a shot of insulin. 

At a rest spot the doctor tells the two Israelis that his family had a lot of land in what is now Israel  Now they only have half the land and it is the bad part.  The two groups speak in English because only one man, Abu Eyash, knows both Arabic and Hebrew.  Galilli is granted permission to go to the bathroom.  Zaid puts his automatic weapon to Cohen's head while Galilli is out back.  Galilli sees an Israeli convoy stopped by the road very close to him.  But he doesn't dare make a move for fear of getting Cohen killed.  Galilli goes back to his captors.  Zaid is curious about what Galilli was looking at out there so he sends Halil to check it out.  Halil isn't much of a scout and while giving Zaid a sign that there is nothing out there. Halil is suddenly shot twice in the chest.   A fire fight develops and the P.L.O. unit makes a hurried retreat.  Apparently, Galilli was making a break for it and is killed with multiple bullets to his chest.  Cohen is very upset about the loss of his buddy. 

The news is that the Christians are fighting as allies with the Israelis.  Zaida gives back the World Cup tickets to Cohen.  Cohen favors Italy to win.  Later they learn from the radio that Italy won a game 2-0.  The men hide under a bridge as an Israelis convoy crosses overhead.

Cohen starts talking to Zaid about exchanges.  He says that in the end there is always an exchange of prisoners between Israel and its enemies.  Cohen suggests he should just go now since he will be exchanged anyway.  So he makes a run for it.   The fellows chase and catch Cohen. 

Abu Eyash takes the unit to the house of a friend.  The daughter of the host is getting married this very night.  Abu asks:  "Now with a war going on?"  Yes.  The guys decide to stick around for awhile.  And, even better, the host has a television.  While searching for the World Cup games Cohen tells his captors that he has a boutique back in Israel.  The guys are surprised at this.  Cohen says he will never leave Israel.  A P.L.O. fellow says he will and they go back and forth like this for awhile.

While the fellows watch a game, Fatchi starts having physical problems.  Zaid gives him a shot of insulin and realizes that they are going to have to get more from somewhere.  Otherwise he could very well die.  The hostess informs Zaid that there is no medical care in their village.  They will have to go to the next town, but it's Christian. 

Everyone including the fighting men get dressed up for the wedding.  They pretend that Cohen is just one of them.  At the wedding a woman insists that Cohen dance with her.  Everyone stops to watch as the two dance together.  A group of Israeli soldiers pull up in a jeep.  They talk with the host, take a look around at the wedding guests and then leave.  (Cohen tries nothing because Zaid has a pistol and tells him if he talks he will be a dead man.)

When the guys awaken the next morning they can't find Cohen.  They run around trying to find him until Cohen himself hears them while going to the bathroom and calls out to them.  One of the guards tells Cohen never to do that again.  He has to ask for permission to go.  Zaid then sends two of his men to the Christian town to ask for some insulin at the pharmacy there.  The men are to get in and get out as fast as they can with the insulin.  While waiting for the two guys to return, Cohen starts kicking around a rubber ball.  He is soon joined by a few of his captors. 

The two fellows in town find the pharmacy closed.  While waiting they see a lot of wounded Israeli soldiers being taken to an army  hospital.  The two fellows just walk over to the hospital and ask one of the doctors for needed supplies.  (The semi-doctor fellow is introduced to the Israeli as a doctor.)  The Israeli doctor thinks they are Christians and is very friendly and very willing to help.  The two fellows are given a huge pile of medical supplies, but no insulin.  So they specifically ask for insulin.  The doctor thinks that a bit strange but he wants to help so he tells the supply officer to give the men some insulin.  They are given two large boxes of insulin. 

After being gone for awhile, Shukri finally shows up.  He has obviously killed an Israeli soldier because he drops the man's gear in front of the group.  This shocks Cohen and he tells Zaid that they fight like animals.  Zaid strikes back by saying that Israel is always making war.  So the two fellows go back and forth for awhile.  The guys start playing soccer again.  The two fellows return from the Christian town with one box of insulin.  At about the same time, the ball is kicked out of bounds.  Zaid forbids Cohen from going for the ball.  Fatchi volunteers.  As he crosses some wire, he is suddenly cut-down by a huge explosion.  Zaid is especially shaken.  Now there is no need for the insulin. 

At night the unit crosses a bridge over a stream avoiding the lights from an overhead helicopter.  An Israeli jeep comes by and just misses spotting the unit.  The men go into an abandoned pool hall and decide to rest there for awhile.  Cohen plays Zaid in billiards and it turns into a sort of war game.  Cohen doesn't like the atmosphere and suggest that they just stop the game.   The captors, however, insist that Cohen finish the game.  Cohen improves his game and he finishes with a flourish by hitting the eight-ball (named "Jerusalem") into a pocket. 

Back to walking the men want to find a television where they can watch more of the soccer games.  They think it is going to be Italy versus Brazil in the final showdown.  They see a nice looking house in the distance and head there.  They find it abandoned.  While one fellow takes a bath in a luxurious bathroom, the others watch soccer.  When the fellow finishes his bath he gets Cohen to go up for a bath.  After awhile the men realize that Cohen has been upstairs for quite a long time.  They all head upstairs to the bathroom.  There they find the vengeful Shukri torturing Cohen by holding his head under water repeatedly in the toilet.  When the men protest, Shukri lets Cohen up, but then knees him a couple of times.  The men then realize that an Israeli jeep is driving up to the place.  They give Cohen his clothes and he gets dressed in a hurry.  The men head away from the house.  As they move the news is that Italy goes ahead of Brazil 3 to 2. 

After awhile the men take a rest.  Cohen hears on the radio that Beirut is surrounded.  The Israeli troops have linked up with the Falangists in the Christian quarters.  They hear a noise and start moving out.  All of a sudden the doctor is hit right in the forehead and dies.  Cohen starts walking ahead of the group to contact what he suspects is the Israelis.  Zaid grabs him from behind and pushes him forward at a faster rate while using him as a human shield.  But they don't find anyone in the area. 

The men make Cohen kill a chicken even though he doesn't want to.  Then Cohen starts going a bit crazy and he keeps shouting over and over:  "Kill me!"  He tells the fellows that there is no Beirut.  It's too late to go there.  The Israelis have it.  Finally a captor catches hold of Cohen and tells him:  "Relax!  Relax!  No one wants to kill you."  Cohen finally relaxes.  He then tells Zaid that the game is over.  They should give themselves up to the Israelis and he will speak up for them.  He adds that the war is over, so let's go home to our families.  But his captors are not interested.  They just tell him that they can get a lot for him from the Israelis.  Cohen says yes.  He then just starts walking away.  They ask him:  "Where to?"  Cohen replies:  "Home!" and starts running like hell.  The men chase after him and finally catch him. 

At night they reach the outskirts of Beirut with its many lights.  Cohen and Zaid sit and talk.  Zaid tells Cohen about his wife and child who live in Italy.  They don't want any part of the war.  They also talk about Italy as the logical winner of the World Cup.  Cohen gives Zaid his ticket for the World Cup final game.  Zaid asks him if he thinks he will be able to make it to the game.  Cohen says he thinks it's possible.  Zaid then finds a place to cross-over a major Beirut road.  There are a lot of Israeli check points and they had to find the best place to cross.  When they decide on a place to cross, it's a place not far from the check point itself. 

The men will run over the road one at a time.  Shukri makes it o.k.  Abu Eyash goes next, but he is cut down by the Israelis.  Another of the captors crosses and is also killed.  At this point Cohen runs toward the check point, perhaps in part to stop the killing.  An Israeli shoulder shouts to the others:  "Don't shoot!  It's Cohen!"  Zaid tries to cross, is hit twice and goes down. 

Italy is the world champion for the 1982 World Cup Final.  Zaid is still alive.  Zaid asks Cohen if he is o.k.  Cohen says yes.  Zaid is placed into an ambulance on a stretcher.  Cohen stays behind at the check point.  As the credits roll, he is finally able to relax a bit and cries and stops, cries and stops. 


Pretty good movie.  It's much better than the movies that either make the Israelis or the Arabs look like total militarists eager to kill their enemy.  On the Israeli side Cohen is just a regular guy who does not even see himself as a soldier even if he is in uniform.  He doesn't hate his captors and develops a relatively good relationship with them considering the circumstances.  On the other side, except for the one particularly sadistic P.L.O. fellow, the enemy is not blood-thirsty to kill or even harm Cohen.  It makes one feel that in other situations these men could have been friends.  And in this sense, the movie is anti-war.  It looks beyond the stereotypes of both sides to see a basic humanity among men of both groups.   And the movie doesn't do this in a preachy, moralizing style.  The point is made gradually as the men get to know each other better, independent of whatever political views they might have.   My wife didn't like the movie.  She thought it a bit boring.  But I think this is too harsh of a judgment.  At times it did drag a bit, but I kept wondering how the movie would end up for poor Mr. Cohen.  The men grew to have respect for each other and that's a noble moral for a story. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


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