Noam Kaplan’s “The Future” challenges its audience to reconsider how it sees the world. [Tribeca Film Festival]

Fighting for peace is like screwing for virginity.

― George Carlin

At some point in a colonizer’s life, they look back on the choices they’ve made. For many, they’ll see the civilizations they’ve liberated, the cultures they’ve enlightened, and the peoples who are better off for having been touched by them. Far too few, however, realize that the act of colonization creates the argument of a slippery slope toward genocide, stripping away all that makes Indigenous culture what it is. Having its world premiere at Tribeca Film Festival 2023 is writer/director Noam Kaplan’s (The Voice of Ahmad) latest project, The Future, which daringly looks at the Israeli actions against the Palestinian people with open eyes. None are innocent, all are complicit, but it’s the colonizing force that bears the brunt of responsibility in war.

The Future 2

Reymonde Amsalem as Dr. Nurit in THE FUTURE. Photo courtesy of Intramovies.

Ahead of the launch of Spacecraft Hope set to land on the moon, the Israeli Minister of Space and Tourism is murdered at a convention by a young Arab student, Yaffa (Samar Qupty). For Nurit (Reymonde Amsalem), this is particularly troubling as she developed an algorithm whose purpose is to detect future terrorist acts and yet, it couldn’t see this coming. With permission, Nurit sits down with Yaffa over a few weeks to discuss her motives in order to figure out what the algorithm didn’t see. These conversations are tense, neither one willing to give up a position of strength. Yet, as time goes on, there’s a shift and, in the space, grows doubt within Nurit.

As a child in the small Jewish community of Roanoke, Virginia, I learned the history of Israel, of the valiant warriors who fought off hostile forces again and again in order to claim a piece of land for themselves. I learned of the 1967 Six-Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War, two instances in modern history in which Arab forces tried to push the Israeli people out of the country, only to lose both times, often losing literal ground in the process. These were taught to me and others, students of Hebrew history, children of the United States, as heroic victories of a besought people. What we weren’t taught was what happened to the people living in Gaza, to the native Palestinians, or to anyone that wasn’t considered a Jew. There is no true victory while someone else is in pain, while someone else suffers, while someone is shifted from friend to enemy to other. When the othering occurs, it’s far easier to justify atrocities and to present any push-back as terrorism. “We’re not the problem, they are.” With one delicate step after another, Kaplan presents such an argument, wherein the colonizer begins to realize that it’s not the majority which is the savior, but the invader with zero respect for what existed before. The struggle for land may have existed for centuries, pitting generation against generation of new warriors, but none of it was necessary if either could’ve acknowledged the other as equal instead of as an adversary.

This is the undercurrent which courses through the interactions between Yaffa and Nurit, each one jockeying to maintain some type of high ground and control, each one reluctant to see the world as the other does. Kaplan does an excellent job in establishing who these characters are, first as the expected characters, then making them fully-formed before the film ends. Yaffa is the first one we meet as she’s forced to walk the leading detective through the murder at the scene of the incident. Qupty presents her as frustrated, reluctant-but-also-aggravated, the task of recounting her violent act as beneath her. Seen as a terrorist, Qupty plays as too good to be bothered to give the Israeli police what they want, but does it anyway. This initial meeting suggests that she doesn’t care about what she’s done, as though taking a life is meaningless to her. Yaffa would be cold if not for Qupty’s expressions of disdain and annoyance. In contrast, Amsalem presents Nurit as someone yearning for closeness, but whose work makes her question everything and everyone, untrusting of what others take at face value. With a similar coldness, our first meeting of Nurit is her standing on a hill watching a distant explosion via binoculars, her face and body language presenting someone neither celebratory nor sad about the demolition. It’s not until a little bit later that the audience is informed of the significance of the explosion, but it certainly says something about Nurit that she mentions it without concern for how Yaffa might feel or for the implications. These actors delicately present characters who are in a dance, unaware that each are moving to the notes of the same composer, each finding a different meaning in what they hear. This is the slow-building power of the narrative, that Kaplan convey the ways in which far too many see the Israeli people as victims when they have plenty of blood on their hands, justified by the terror of being a victim again.

Another fascinating thing about Kaplan’s approach to exploring the ways in which these characters and their cultures exist, is that it’s all about the women in the story. There are perhaps four prominent on-screen men (the detective, two security guards, and a tv reporter) with Nurit’s husband only heard and never seen. The prominence and significance is given to the women of the story (Nurit and her mother, Yaffa and her’s, the doctor that Nurit sees, and the potential surrogate that Nurit meets), adding another layer to the narrative. There’s a presumption on my part that Nurit is Jewish, which, if she is, means that her community is matriarchal in nature. This places all the importance of continuing the family line, as well as preserving it, on the women. For an additional subplot, Nurit is able to get pregnant, but is not able to carry to term. This could be a touch of irony on the part of Kaplan as she’s the “mother” of “The Future,” the tech that is intended to prevent future terrorist attacks, who’s also not entirely the stereo-typical motherly type herself (retches at the idea of cooking, not a housekeeper, or otherwise matronly). Her figureless husband, however, is also a Ph.D., but he studies wasps and their reproductive habits, is so wrapped up in the recent hatching of a hive that he won’t attend any appointments or meetings with Nurit because that takes precedence. This subplot and the physical absence of her husband means that Nurit must standalone with her decisions, her concerns over the future suddenly called into question when the algorithm fails. Via their conversations, Kaplan allows for some look into Yaffa’s life as well, though it’s primarily used to shatter Nurit’s own perspectives. If all one has known is privilege, it’s unfathomable for some to recognize that they have it. This journey, this moment in time, forces Nurit to explore all that which she had taken for granted, encouraging her to see the world, perhaps for the first time.

Noam Kaplan bio

Director/writer Noam Kaplan. Photo courtesy of Intramovies.

When The Future crossed my path, I wasn’t aware of the politics it would explore. Even as it ponders an alt-present with spaceship travel/tourism, rather than inspiring hope or inspiration, there’s a disquieting colonizing aspect where the race to space is about claiming land for one and not for all. That the lessons of the past don’t inform the future toward a Gene Roddenberry-like prosperity, but a Black Mirror dystopia with the first steps of a country on the moon is merely a high-tech land grab. Injected with a humor indicative of a people who’ve experienced a harsh reality, The Future grapples with heady concepts of right and wrong, powered by two outstanding performances from actors up to the task. A good film gets you to think and a great one challenges the way you see the world. Kaplan has crafted something great.

Screened during Tribeca Film Festival 2023.

For more information, head either to the official The Future Tribeca Film Festival 2023 or Intramovies webpage.

Final Score: 4.5 out of 5.

Categories: In Theaters, Reviews

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