AFI FILM FEST
By Don Simpson | November 17, 2010
Director: Eran Riklis
Writers: Noah Stollman (screenplay), Abraham B. Jehoshua (novel)
Starring: Mark Ivanir, Guri Alfi, Noah Silver, Rozina Cambos, Julian Negulesco
The Human Resources Manager (Mark Ivanir) is a man with very little authority — certainly less than his role warrants at a prominent bakery in Jerusalem. When a young Romanian immigrant woman is killed in a suicide bombing, a paycheck from the bakery is discovered on her body by the police. When the police approach the bakery for more details about the victim — and inquire about why the bakery did not report the employee missing when she stopped showing up at work — the HR Manager is unable to answer their questions. The deceased woman’s employment status at the time of her death was murky at best, so the HR Manager commences an investigation to unravel the truth.
When it is revealed that the deceased woman did not have any family in Jerusalem, the bakery — namely the HR Manager — decides to right their earlier foibles by hand-delivering the body to her next of kin in Romania in the hopes of getting a weaselly tabloid newspaper reporter (Guri Alfi) off their backs. Upon arriving in Romania, the HR Manager assembles a ragtag group to assist him in his journey, including: the deceased woman’s ex-husband (Bogdan Stanoevitch) and son (Noah Silver); Israeli Consulate (Rosina Kambus) and Vice-consul (Julian Negulesco); and an aging chauffeur (Papil Panduru). To add a little tension to the plot, the HR Manager has promised to accompany his young daughter on a class trip so he only has a couple days to return to Jerusalem.
The narrative quickly evolves into a quirky road trip as the HR Manager and his merry band of misfits travel deeper and deeper into the dire and grey environs of Eastern Europe dodging and hurdling disappointment after disappointment along their journey. Rather than becoming tedious or tiresome, this is when The Human Resources Manager really gains its purpose and momentum — thanks to the colorful list of supporting characters. Sure some of the misfortunes the HR Manager encounters are all too predictable cliches, but those cliches are delivered charmingly and playfully enough that it is easy to just go along for the ride.
Following his international successes with The Syrian Bride and Lemon Tree, Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis’ The Human Resources Manager also hits all of the right emotional chords. Riklis will keep audiences on their toes, as The Human Resources Manager constantly switches from glibness to silliness without even a moment’s notice. This is a light-hearted and philosophical dramedy which delves into rich humanitarian and social commentaries. Riklis and his cinematographer Rainer Klausmann craft visual comparisons between the landscapes and cultures of Israel with those of Romania, carefully highlighting the similarities and differences.
Adapted by Noah Stollman from Abraham B. Jehoshua’s source novel A Woman in Jerusalem, The Human Resources Manager exemplifies Jehoshua’s quest for peace and equality amongst different cultures (Jehoshua supported the New Movement during the 2009 elections in Israel). Despite the woman’s death resulting from a suicide bomber, politics of blame and fear are cast aside. The Human Resources Manager is about people looking out for each other and everybody getting along no matter what their age, race, ethnicity or religious creed.