Movie review - Zero Motivation

The past few films we discussed in Green Olive's movie review series tackled the political situation head on. While they are more direct and satisfying for the viewer, this is usually not how most residents of Israel and Palestine experience conflict or occupation on a daily basis. The majority of people here, as anywhere, are not overly political and just want to carry on with their every day lives.

The Israeli movie Zero Motivation sums up the way most Israelis encounter the conflict perfectly.  Israeli Jews must serve at least two years in the army, with very few exceptions to this rule. Most 17 or 18 years olds do not question this, just as most 5 year olds in the rest of the world don't question that they have to go to school. It is just the way things are done.

Visitors to Israel-Palestine will usually only encounter the army at an occasional West Bank checkpoint or possibly patrolling a sensitive part of Jerusalem's old city. But there are thousands of other roles which are less visible. From surveillance, intelligence, and training, to teachers, musicians and cooks, the Israeli army employs them all. Zero Motivation takes viewers into that world, by dramatising the misadventures of a group of young female enlistees who work menial office jobs.

Viewers will likely empathise with each of the three main characters as they struggle to get promoted, get laid or just get through! None of them are happy to be pushing paper in the human resources department in a remote base in the Negev Desert.

Daffi (Nelly Tagar) obsesses with moving to the central base in Tel Aviv. Zohar (Dana Ivgy) is embarrassed that she is a virgin and her struggle against the machismo of the men on base provides what is essentially a comedy with some of its most poignant moments. Finally their boss, Captain Rama (Shani Klein), is breathtakingly frustrated by the girls' lack of enthusiasm as she desperately chases a better role despite the patriarchal road blocks she faces.

There are other shocking, violent or otherwise noteworthy moments scattered throughout the movie which makes the film much more than the sum of its parts. Although those not familiar with some of the jargon or culture around the IDF may miss some of the references, overall there is enough moments which could come from an episode of The Office for a casual viewer to relate to. A particular highlight is the constant threat of deleting the 'Minesweeper' highest scores from the office computer!

For anyone who wants a glimpse into the real, often mundane and frequently tragic, world of the Israeli army, this film is highly recommended. 


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