White Panther was too complex and too simple at the same time. Too complex, because it tried to pack too many themes into a single movie including:
- Tension between Israelis of Russian and Moroccan descent
- A son’s duty to his mother
- Brotherly differences
- Romance between members of different clans
- The issue of patrilineal vs matrilineal descent
- Escaping from a modern ghetto via sports
Having this many focus made it unfocused. Yes, life is complex and we often have to balance many issues like the ones above. But the beauty and challenge of real life is that the end is not predictable. Unfortunately here, once the scene was set, the end was too easy to foresee. The story held no surprises in the second half of the movie for me.
While the writing wasn’t too exciting I enjoyed the work of the actors and the director (Danni Reisfeld). The fatherly policeman (Ze’ev Revach) and the sick Russian mother (Natasha Manor) seemed the most authentic. Alex and his eventual love interest Yasmin were played by two good-looking actors (Yevgeny Orlov and Meital Gal) who didn’t work as hard to express emotions had they been more plain. The pacing of the movie was great, fast and slow, dark and night pictures came one after the other in great rhythm.
The movie gives a basic peek into how children of Russian immigrants to Israel formed a violent gang; a topic that is worthy a deeper look into. This is not that movie. But if you want a a not too substantial drama, covering multiple topics, you will enjoy this one.
IMDB summary: In the 1990’s a million former USSR Jews arrived in Israel. The immigrants were despised by the local population who feared their ‘invasion’. While many embraced the Israeli lifestyle, others chose to live in self-made Russian ghettos. These ghettos were a fertile ground for the creation of self-hating Jewish skinheads. ‘White Panther’ is the story of Alex, a young Russian immigrant who joins a skinheads’ gang, led by his older brother. An unexpected meeting with David, a religious Moroccan Jew, gives Alex a chance to pursue his longtime dream of becoming a boxer like his father. Alex finds himself torn between his two father figures – his violent older brother and his new Jewish trainer, only to find out the truth about those he so admires.
As a member of the Jewish Film Festival, organized by the Jewish Community Center, Sonoma County, I preview movies to help decide which ones to play at the Festival. I watched this movie as part of this volunteer effort.