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Tribeca: "Zero Motivation," Winner of Best Narrative Feature

Here's Diana on one of the big winners of the Tribeca Film Festival...

A young woman saves a seat on a bus for her friend. The friend runs on and all is well, or at least until the driver tells everyone that they have to exit the bus and get on again. The two women shout dibs on their seats, but the jump cut reveals it was to no avail, with both standing in the midst of the jam-packed aisle for the very long and arduous bus ride ahead of them. No, this isn’t a Megabus or a school bus, but it is on its way to a camp of sorts: an army base in middle-of-nowhere Israel. These two women are army secretaries, serving their mandatory two years out handling mail, shredding paper and having their rearends ogled as they serve coffee and biscuits to predominantly male officers. Loosely based on her own experiences in the Israeli army (and a Sundance Directors and Screenwriters Lab participant), Talya Levie’s Zero Motivation follows Zohar (Dana Ivgy) and Daffi (Nelly Tagar) through boredom, romance and record-breaking Minesweeper scores...

Once Zohar and Daffi arrive at the base, they’re already in hot water with their commanding officer Rama (Shani Klein, in an impressive screen debut), who had to make the officers’ coffee herself and spilled some of the proceedings on her uniform. While Daffi trains a new recruit (presumedly her replacement) and Zohar attempts to get Rama’s spot out of her soiled shirt, we get an inside look into the office dynamic, one refreshingly comprised entirely of women and not too full of sisterly love.


In charge of “Paper & Shredding” (a made-up position to cover her lack of office skills), Daffi is completely miserable in the rural setting, simpering to anyone willing to listen, with hopes transferring to Tel Aviv. As the office postal manager, Zohar is rebellious and smart-mouthed, more concerned with playing online games and riling up the other staff than the administrative tasks at hand. Also in the office, there are two secretaries who peppily sing at each other while they work, to the chagrin of Daffi, Zohar and the grumpy Russian who reads novels and grumbles insults from time to time. At their head, Rama has hopes of a promotion, but needs an organized, tip-top office and some acknowledgement from her male superiors (specifically from her rather attractive commanding officer Boaz) first.

Divided into three parts, Zero Motivation is infused with Lavie’s comic book sensibility (her non-film work includes a comics strip column on an Israeli entertainment website), resulting in quick wit and moments of magic realism, which the audience is able to take in stride as the story progresses even into the most ridiculous situations (watch out for the staple gun). That being said, Lavie doesn’t shy away from the larger issues at hand (guns, mental breakdowns, rape), but brings an informed levity that makes the situation accessible. The film tackles cinematic tropes and female issues with equal aplomb (cue the music when the not-so-experienced Zohar locks eyes with a visiting soldier), resulting in a very funny and very original comedy. Out of a festival noted mainly for its great documentary selection, it’s great to see this film win both Best Narrative Feature and the Nora Ephron Prize.  A-    


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Reader Comments (2)

at least one of us saw the winner! sounds interesting, especially given that we rarely see military stories featuring women

April 25, 2014 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Yeah! It's funny and sharp and ridiculous. The office's dread comes more from the inner-dynamic and the different characters' hopes/daydreams than the war looming outside, though it does get mentioned here and there (more as a guilt-trip for the work-avoiding recruits). It was nice to see a military-based female comedy that didn't try to empower the women, showing all their flaws, foibles and insecurities. I'd liken Daffi to a current-day Private Benjamin and Zohar to a gruffer Bette Midler character.

April 26, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

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