Sweet Mud (Israeli title: Adama Meshuga’at)
In the year leading up to his bar mitzvah, young Dvir (Tomer Steinhof) accidentally watches a man get intimate with a cow, tells a girl he loves her, steals some popsicles and surreptitiously smokes. As a general rule: becoming a man + encountering messed-up adult sexuality + experiencing puppy love + rebelling in silly ways = coming of age. (It’s a pretty foolproof equation.) But in Israeli film Sweet Mud (Adama Meshuga’at), Dvir does his coming of age within the context of a mid-1970s Israeli kibbutz. He steals popsicles from the work-farm’s communal kitchen. Dvir’s mom is Miri (Ronit Yudkevitz), a depressed woman who struggles with the commune’s strict rules and demand for conformity, but remains weirdly tied to it. As Dvir navigates adolescence, Miri becomes more despondent. Director Dror Shaul (who also spent his formative years on a kibbutz) is levelling an obvious critique of the system’s set-up and mostly does so with a fairly light hand (save for some end-of-film histrionics by Miri). To frame his thesis, Shaul’s created a organic-feeling cinematic world, full of communal decision-making meetings, jam-sharing and free-wheeling European hippies grooving on the kibbutz’s back-to-basics vibe. The film provides a fascinating window into a faraway time and place, which makes Dvir’s journey to adulthood feel new.