Filmmaker Talya Lavie steps into the spotlight with a dark comedy about everyday life for a unit of young female Israeli soldiers. The human resources office at a remote desert base serves as the setting for this cast of characters, who bide their time pushing paper, battling for the top score in Minesweeper, and counting down the minutes until they can return to civilian life. Amidst their boredom and clashing personalities, issues of commitment—from friendship to love and country—are handled with humor and sharp-edged wit. In Hebrew with subtitles.
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★★★½ review by Tasha Robinson on Letterboxd
Reminded me a good bit of Jafar Panahi's Offside, a similarly funny and dramatic film largely about women navigating a male-dominated society (in this case, as Israeli women serving in the military) but as a virtually all-female group: There's a lot of sympathy and lack of sympathy among these women, who jockey for position and push their own agendas and needs on each other, often aggressively and with no sense of shame at demanding special treatment, or blowing off each other's problems. Entertaining and surprisingly emotionally effective as a series of character studies among a disparate group all stuck in the same situation: Just a little Orange Is The New Black, but in khaki drab.
★★★★ review by JΔΣΞS Β on Letterboxd
A 2014 directorial debut about a group of bored young female Israeli soldiers serving their mandatory military time. Think Mean Girls set in a desert military base with subtitles. Surprisingly charming and funny.
Discussed in episode #122, a Top 10 Last 10 podcast episode, in which we rank the last 10 films we've seen.
★★★½ review by sydney on Letterboxd
"The Office + MASH in Israel with women" is too easy a comparison, and doesn't do this justice somehow, but it's good enough for a letterboxd review written on my phone i suppose. i badly wish this was also a tv show with 11 seasons.
★★★½ review by Mike D'Angelo on Letterboxd
The Dissolve review. I recommend this more highly than the rating probably suggests—it has some issues with gestalt (as multi-part stories often do), but enough moment-to-moment inspiration that I won't be surprised should director Talya Lavie become a major figure in Israeli cinema down the road.
★★★★ review by Michael Casey on Letterboxd
Set in a remote Israeli desert base and populated almost entirely of female soldiers between the ages of 18 and 30, ZERO MOTIVATION follows the warriors not destined for the front lines, but for the filing cabinets. Their duties are secretarial (serving tea and coffee, providing office parties and documenting the soldier’s approved leave) and they perform these duties with an admirable level of apathy.
Divided into three sections — “The Replacement”, “The Virgin” and “The Commander” — and revolving primarily around two close friends, Zohar (Dana Ivgy) and Daffi (Nelly Tagar), ZERO MOTIVATION finds the universal in the specific. It’s greatest strength lies in the relationship between Daffi and Zohar. Two best friend who want to move in completely opposite directions. Daffi hates being in the desert and applies for a transfer to Tel Aviv — which requires special commander training — whereas Zohar’s main aspiration involves beating her Minesweeper high score.
ZERO MOTIVATION is writer/director Talya Lavie’s first feature film and even though it isn’t specifically about gender roles in the Israeli Army, she manages to put a fine point on it, photographing the male soldiers with their semi-automatic rifles slung around their body (an excellent phallic symbol if there ever was one), while the girls only get two staple guns to play with. ZERO MOTIVATION's droll depiction of an office space shows that there isn’t much difference between a desert army base and a suburban office building, especially the never-ending battle over the stapler.
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