This review ran previously as part of coverage for the Jewish Film Festival.
None of the characters in The Human Resources Manager, Israel’s official submission for this year’s Best Foreign Language Film competition, has a name — with one crucial exception. Director Eran Riklis ( The Lemon Tree) and screenwriter Noah Stollman, working from Abraham B. Jehoshua’s source novel A Woman in Jerusalem, refer to them only by their profession or their place in a family — the widow, the grandmother, the secretary, the weasel, the boy. The eponymous protagonist (Mark Ivanir), a withdrawn man who works at a popular bakery in Jerusalem, is shocked to learn that a former employee, a Romanian immigrant named Yulia who had suddenly stopped showing up two weeks earlier, has killed herself in a suicide bombing at a café. When the authorities find a paycheck on her corpse connecting her to the bakery, they interrogate the manager, wanting to know why he had never reported her disappearance to his superiors. The press comes after the manager and the bakery, painting them as insensitive and irresponsible. To save face, the manager embarks on a road trip to return Yulia’s corpse to her family. That description makes The Human Resources Manager sound like a gravely serious film, but Riklis sneaks subversive comedy into the story at unexpected moments. The humor becomes more pronounced once the film hits the road, when the manager and his companions (including a relentlessly muckraking reporter intent on sullying the bakery’s reputation) have a series of encounters that range from the absurd to the allegorical. Riklis occasionally lays on the “we’re all in this together” moral a bit too thickly, but for much of the picture, the story remains surprisingly apolitical. The Human Resources Manager uses its comic veneer to illustrate that people, when they’re stuck in situations in which race, religion and ethnicity have no bearing, can actually learn to get along — and even like each other.
Cast: Mark Ivanir, Gila Almagor, Reymond Alsalem, Guri Alfi, Noah Silver, Rosina Kambus.
Director: Eran Riklis.
Screenwriter: Noah Stollman. Based on the novel by Abraham B. Jehoshua.
Producers: Tudor Giurgiu, Thanassis Karathanos, Talia Klienhenderl.
Running time: 103 minutes. Adult themes. In Hebrew, Romanian and English with English subtitles. Plays at 7:30 p.m. Thursday in Miami-Dade at the Cosford Cinema, followed by a panel discussion as part of the theater’s Lattman Lecture series. Also screening March 25-27 without Q&A. Visit www.cosfordcinema.com or call 305-284-4861.