Containing autobiographical elements and created by a mother-son team, "Sandflakes" is a low-key coming-of-age drama. Playing in a small town in Israel's periphery it manages to be watchable and uplifting with a universal appeal. It received a particularly warm welcome from the public at the Vienna Jewish Film Festival earlier this year. Warmly recommended.
David (Yossi Marshek), is a teenage boy living with his mother Iris (Shani Cohen) and younger brother in a small town in the South of Israel. David's mother has separated from her husband and is suffering from a severe illness. Wheelchair-bound, she is determined to live her life as independently as possible and has developed a hard shell. David is frustrated as he must often act as her carer and take responsibility for his younger brother.
To cope with his hormonally heightened frustrations, David has turned to writing poetic fictional short stories in an internet forum of aspiring teenage authors. This provides him an outlet and a forum where he receives recognition from his writing peers who are impressed by his creativity and talent.
The other youths in the group who mainly live in metropolitan Tel Aviv are intrigued by the creativity and poetic truth of his stories and want to know more about him and his life. Believing that his small-time life will make others in the forum look down upon him and his writings, he invents a false identity for himself. Suddenly the means of escape which let him cope with the difficulties of his situation becomes an additional source of pressure: keeping up appearances online becomes increasingly complicated and stressful.
"Sandflakes" is the result of a mother-son-cooperation, written by Gitit Kabiri and directed by her son Yahel Kabiri, who is completing his studies at film school; it contains autobiographical as well as fictional elements. Within a competent cast, Shani Cohen stands out as Iris possibly also because she had the best-written character to work with. Lucy Aharish as Iris' friend Vered also deserves a special mention.
Despite its rather bleak setting in a peripheral small town in Israel's southern desert and the difficult circumstances of David's life, the story manages to be uplifting. Without sugar-coating it provides a watchable and moving riposte to French existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre's "L'enfer c'est les autres" (hell is other people): it is through acquaintances and friendships and the meaningful encounters with other people that we can cope with the frustrations in our lives. The strength and originality of this film are that it observes this in a low-key if not entirely unsentimental manner. Warmly recommended.