A Borrowed Identity

Aug 20, 2015

A fascinating dramatic take on a devastating  conflict.

A Borrowed Identity

Grade: A

Director: Eran Riklis (The Syrian Bride)

Screenplay: Sayed Kashua (Dancing Arabs) from the novel

Cast: Tawfeek Barhom (The Idol), Razi Gabareen

Rating: NR

Runtime: 104 min.

by John DeSando

“Of course, I’m aware of the animosities destroying brain cells on both sides, and I know all about the obstinacy of the warring parties, their refusal to reach an agreement, their devotion to their own murderous hatred….” Yasmina Khadra, The Attack

Identity is indeed the heart of A Borrowed Identity about Palestinian boy, Ayed (Tawfeek Barhom), sent to a premiere boarding school in Jerusalem, but beset by prejudice against him and decisions about which culture he should embrace. This informative film is a crash course in cultural clash with enough character and interpersonal drama to satisfy the most discerning cinephile. Those who found The Attack an unforgettable interpretation of the conflict will have a similar reaction to this film.

From the early ‘80’s nothing is going right for Palestinians: Israel dominates the split of the region while Hamas begins to retaliate. Meanwhile Ayed has the misfortune to fall in love with a Jew, Naomi (Daniel Kitsis), whose love will drive some of his basic decisions, like staying at the boarding school, and therefore his life.

The charm of this film is that it does not take sides, just empathizes with the protagonist, whose love is not only natural but also an emblem of the absurdity of cultural wars when one considers that it’s really about people, whose loves cannot be controlled, and shouldn’t be. Her mother would rather Naomi be "a lesbian, a drug addict, or has cancer" than be in love with an Arab.

The more time director Eran Riklis lets us spend with these Romeo- and-Juliet lovers, the more we are convinced the Arab-Israeli conflict is an absurdity born of historical hatreds that really shouldn’t apply in the modern World. The tragedy is that Ayed must deal with the debilitating prejudice daily and make decisions on it rather than his natural love and brilliance.

But that conflict is what makes A Borrowed Identity such a watchable drama that gives more insight into that region of the world than all the Wikipedia articles touching on the Arab-Israeli conflict.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at