Despite extremely poor screening facilities in makeshift tents at the ongoing International Children’s Film Festival of India, it was heartening to see a fairly interesting lineup.
David and Kamal by Japan’s Kikuo Kawasaki is by far the best till now. Part of the 15-movie international competition, David and Kamal is a touching story of two little boys who meet in the walled city of Jerusalem. David, a Jewish American, from Denmark is visiting his father, his parents having separated a while ago, while Kamal, an Arab, is a street urchin, a purse snatcher. And when he takes away David’s bag of rare coins while he and his stepmother are out shopping, a chase ensues, leading to unimaginably dangerous situations.
Kawasaki in a very muted but powerful way conveys the warmth of a bond that grows between two unlikely individuals, who first meet in an extremely volatile atmosphere. For David, Kamal is a guy who has taken away his most valuable possession, and for Kamal, David is but a rich “American” with loads of money that the street-boy can use to reach Chicago, where his uncle lives, a life that can take him away from the humiliating cruelty he faces from his grandfather.
In a chat with Hindustan Times this morning, Kawasaki said it was very very difficult to shoot in Jerusalem, because no automobiles were allowed inside the walled city. It was a very confined area, and it took a long time to cart the camera and other equipment from one place to another.
And two violent incidents completely upset the schedule. One was a suicide attack in which a man crashed his vehicle into another killing many people. The other was a terror attack at Lion’s Gate where the shooting was on. Both these shook Kawasaki and his team.
Making the camera almost invisible in order to give his work a documentary feel, the Japanese helmer shot on the streets of Jerusalem, completing the work in just four weeks and with two talented lead actors. But it was not easy to find Abdalla El Akal who plays Kamal, because “I needed someone who could speak at least broken English, and it took me a year to find him”, Kawasaki averred. He had to interview almost 300 Palestinian boys before Kamal emerged, and it seemed like David O Selznick’s famously long hunt for Scarlett O Hara for his Gone With The Wind. Kamal had already acted in seven or eight pictures, and so he was comfortable on the set.
Yoni Rosenzweig essayed David in what was for him his first time before the camera. “He was not my first choice, who was a naturally introverted kid but with a long pony tail, which he was not willing to cut”, laughed the helmer.
David and Kamal ends on crisp note, a climax that took my breath away.