Ha Chaverim Shel Yana (Yana’s Friends) (1999)
Director: Arik Kaplun.
Starring: Evelyn Kaplun (Yana), Nir Levy (Eli), Shmil Ben Ari (Yuri Kalantarov), Mosko Alkalai (Yitzhak), Dalia Friedland (Rosa), Vladimir Friedman (Alik), Israel Damidov (Fima), Lena Sachanova (Mila), Jenya Fleisher (Edik), Evyatar Lazar (Daniel), Lucy Dubinchik (Yuri's daughter), Valentin Nikulin (Neighbor), Aleksandr Stanilov (Moving contractor).
Tel Aviv immigrants become bound with each other during the Scud attacks of the Gulf War (1990-1991)
Spoiler Warning: below is a summary of the entire movie.
Eli is a lady chaser and his most recent girlfriend tells him: "Eli, it’s over." The landlady Rosa introduces Eli to some new immigrants from Russia who will be his neighbors: Yana and her husband Fimke. Eli is rude to the new people saying that they are not welcome.
Yana is three months pregnant. Her husband seems to care more about the nice sum of money he has just received courtesy of the Israeli government. Her husband heads back to Russia. Yana wants to go with him, but he insists that she stay in Israel. While Fimke is away, Eli shows some of his films to Yana. He is avid videographer. The Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein appears on the television shortly before the Gulf War.
Another Russian immigrant family moves into Rosa's building. Isaac Turpin, the grandfather, moves in with his daughter and son-in-law along with their young child. The son-in-law places the very sad-looking and sleepy grandfather, who is in a wheel chair, on the street and leaves him there near a accordion player who plays his instrument for tips. The son-in-law expects the accordion player to look after the older man, who was a hero in World War II. The accordion player does not like having the older gentleman next to him, because the man's sad looks brings him the vast majority of the tips. In face, grandpa does very well in getting tips and the son-in-law is very happy with the sum. The accordion player and the son-in-law start to get into a fight because, whenever the accordion player moves his location, the son-in-law parks grandpa right next to him.
Fed up with grandpa and the son-in-law, and tired of losing tip money to the older man, the accordion player pushes grandfather in his wheel chair over near the sea and leaves him there. The son-in-law is livid with anger when he finds discovers grandpa missing.
Yana has been crying because it has been so difficult to get to talk to her husband in Russia. Then one day her mother-in-law just suddenly confesses to her that Fimker is not coming back. Yana is very upset at the news and cries. To drown her sorrows, she decides to go with Ely to a wedding where he is making a video. At the wedding, Yana drinks a lot. They bring a lot of food home with them from the wedding.
Yana decide to fly back to Russia. But she quickly finds out that any immigrant who stays less than a year in Israel has to get a release from the bank. She gets desperate and makes a run for the plane but they catch her and put her in jail. Now she needs someone to bail her out, so she calls Eli. Eli bails her out.
On the telivision, news arrives that the United States condemns the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
The son-in-law starts fighting with the accordion player in still another dispute over grandfather. The accordion player handles himself well in the fight and the son-in-law breaks it off. Later the police arrive to investigate the fight. They learn that the accordion player teaches music to the local kids. Back at the apartment of the accordion player, the police make sure the kids' parents take them home.
Rosa the landlady is mad when she hears that Yana wants to leave the apartment and she demands that she leave immediately. Yana needs another 1,100 shekels and again she borrows the money from Eli. On the street Yana discovers that Eli has been following and filming her. She goes to the gynecologist to get an abortion and Eli is there to film her entry into the building. She motions for him to get lost and goes inside.
The accordion guy and his daughter can’t understand what is being said on Israeli television. Yana is looking for a job. She sees an ad for someone to baby-sit for the Russian grandfather and she goes over to the apartment to ask for the job. But an older man, who is a bit of an amoral hustler, also sees the ad and he rushes over to the apartment. The ad is for a woman, but the hustler talks the son-in-law and daughter into hiring him. Yana arrives, but it is already too late.
Saddam Hussein says he has six million soldiers who will fight for Iraq.
Yana watches some of Eli's videos (with her name on them) and discovers the depth and length of the videoing. She watches the films and then takes them to her apartment where she starts smashing them. Eli arrives and tries to stop her, but she locks her apartment door. He gets up on a ladder to see into the window above the door. He takes pictures of her busting the videos. He takes pictures of her ruining his tapes. While up on the ladder he grabs for support and out of the attic falls a great many of Rosa's old letters.
Yana reads the letters. One letter mentions her son, Sgt. Pavel Turbin, missing in action in the battle against the Jordanian Legion, Jerusalem, June 6, 1967. Pavel had Immigrated to Israel at the age of three. It appears that back in Russia Rosa has fallen in love with the now elderly Russian war hero.
USA, England, and Saudi Arabia attack Iraq to push it out of Kuwait.
Rosa is very upset when she learns that Yana had read her letters. Rosa gets in her car and starts driving to see Yana. But along the way she hits the accordion man with her car. While she is sorting out the situation, she recognizes the Russian war hero as the father of her son. His name is Isaac Turbin. Rosa runs over to him and starts to renew the relationship all over again. She wants to take care of him, but she gets considerable resistance from the suspicious son-in-law and daughter. (Finding Isaac, Rosa's attitude to Yana completely changes. She becomes friendly with the new immigrant.)
The Israeli authorities say that all citizens must carry their gas masks at all times. An air raid siren goes off. as a SCUD missile explodes. Eli and Yana rush to the sealed-off safety room. There they start making love. In the attacks, seven missiles landed and seven people were wounded.
With the missiles landing and the son-in-law and daughter away, the hustler decides he does not want to watch grandfather after all. He turns the job over to the very willing Rosa. Rosa grabs at the opportunity.
During another attack, Eli and Yana have a second love-making session. Grandfather's family returns from their trip. They are shocked to find Rosa sleeping in bed with grandfather. They throw Rosa out. But the daughter thinks that Rosa might be good for her father. Her stubborn husband, however, does not agree and in arguing with his wife starts throwing a few things at her.
A siren sounds and Eli looks forward to another session of sex with Yana. But it turns out to be a false alarm. Eli is not happy.
The doorbell rings and Yana answers. Rosa returns nine months worth of rent money to her.
The Gulf War is already over! Tel Aviv returns to normal life.
Yana's husband Fimke is back, but Yana sends him back to Russia. The son-in-law and daughter of Isaac Turpin are set on going to the United States. A siren goes off again and Yana and Eli kiss. Rosa comes in and tells them that their neighbors are taking Isaac with them to America. Meanwhile, Isaac’s daughter tells her husband that they should let her dad stay with Rosa.
But Yana, Eli and Rosa put their plan into effect. They kidnap Isaac from his apartment. The son-in-law awakens, finds out that his father-in-law is missing and chases after the culprits. The daughter follows after her husband. She shouts to Rosa "Rosa, stop! We’re giving him to you."
They push grandfather in his wheel chair toward the ocean. They lose control of the wheel-chair and grandpa and the chair head down to the beach. Grandfather is thrown onto the sand. Near the ocean, he slowly gets up and takes a few steps. The accordion player shouts: "I knew it! Faker!"
Good movie. Immigration is almost always hard for the immigrants. And this is true in Israel, as well as the United States. Yana and her husband are given a hostile reception by Israeli Eli. And, after the husband takes the Israeli government money and runs back to Russia, the landlady Rosa, a Russian immigrant herself, gives the innocent and victimized Yana a hard time. But Yana survives her husband's abandonment and builds a new life with the now interested Eli. The rough-edged Rosa finds her old love, a recently arrived Russian immigrant, and softens to become a much kinder and nicer person with a close relationship with Yana and Eli. All this takes place against the trial and tribulations associated with immigration and during the Gulf War in which the Allies pushed Iraq out of Kuwait. The flourishing of love during a time of war and stress makes for an interesting movie.
Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.
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