The Other Son | Film | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

The Other Son

Two young men in Israel – one Jewish, one Arab – discover they were switched at birth


When 18-year-old Joseph, of Tel Aviv, signs up for his Israeli army service, he's given a blood test — and some shocking news: He's not his parents' biological child. In the chaos of being born the night in 1991 when the Iraqis lobbed Scud missiles at Israel, baby Joseph was accidentally switched with baby Yacine, an Arab boy. Yacine grows up in the occupied West Bank, the successful son of proud working-class parents.

Needless to say, the set-up in Lorraine Levy's film is provocative and fertile for conflict. It would be difficult emotional journey for any two families learning they have raised another's son. But add the region's larger conflict, where cultural, political and religious identities are paramount, and it's a monster of a dilemma. (Joseph is no longer even Jewish, his rabbi sadly tells him, since his mother is now an Arab, not a Jew.)

Yet Levy, who co-wrote the film, keeps things low-key. While there are a few emotional outbursts, both families struggle mostly quietly to make the best of a bad situation. It's an admittedly artificial scenario — and the convenience of the set-up strains credulity at times — but the film's grounded performances and focus on the domestic rather than the political help make this parable watchable. It's a lesson drawn from a simplistic gimmick — your Jewish son is now your Arab son and vice versa — but it's hard to fault its logic, or its hopefulness. In English, and French, Hebrew and Arabic, with subtitles.

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