Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Talya Lavie
Stars: Dana Ivgy, Nelly Tagar, Shani Klein, Tamara Klingon.
M*A*S*H meets The Office?

Israeli cinema is producing some exciting films at the moment. The multi-award winning comedy Zero Motivation, which has been a huge box office success in its native country, screened at the Jewish International Film Festival in 2014, and is now gaining a limited cinema release. This deadpan black comedy is the debut feature film from Israeli director Talya Lavie, and it stamps her as an exciting new voice and a talent to watch.
Many women do their compulsory military service, but they often find themselves lumbered with menial clerical duties – they are glorified pencil pushers, typing and filing reports, making coffee for the male officers, etc – that are dull and boring, and ennui quickly sets in. A staple gun is the most prized possession of the office, and it is put to rather good use during the climactic scene.
In this film, we meet several female soldiers stuck in a military base at Shizafon, a remote outpost in the desert, far removed from the creature comforts of civilization. The women are trying to cope as best they can in a world dominated by the machismo of male soldiers, an environment which strips them of their individuality.
The virginal Zohar (played by Dana Ivgy) and her best friend Daffi (Nelly Tagar) spend most of their time playing computer games and chatting and defying the orders of their commander. Daffi wants out and a return to Tel Aviv and civilization. She goes off to officer training, leaving Zohar feeling alone and friendless. Following Daffi’s departure, Zohar becomes more rebellious and restless. Meanwhile Rama (Shani Klein), their ambitious and tough commanding officer seems unable to motivate her charges, and her chances of gaining a promotion through the ranks are scuttled by the behaviour of her troops. When she leaves the army, her replacement is, ironically, Daffi. But she finds it hard to earn the respect of her soldiers, and Zohar in particular.
Zero Motivation is a sharply written comedy that looks at the absurdity of a rigorous military bureaucracy on a military base in a remote location in the middle of nowhere. With its look at the practical jokes the women play on one another, their insubordination and lack of respect for officers, their obvious disdain for military authority, this black comedy looks at military madness from a uniquely female perspective. Its mix of military setting and hijinks at times vaguely recalls Robert Altman’s anti-war classic M*A*S*H. Lavie has drawn upon her own experiences to shape the material which is in itself an extension of her 2006 short film The Substitute.
Cinematographer Yaron Scharf has shot the film in mainly mundane and monochromatic colours, and his visual style effectively reflects the drab colours of the military.
The film captures the wonderful personality quirks of the central characters, and the main cast deliver solid performances. Tagar brings a wonderful naive quality to her performance as Daffi. Ivgy is feisty and strong as the increasingly rebellious and apathetic and laid back Zohar. And Klein easily captures the frustration of her ambitious character.
There are some darker moments, such as an attempted rape and a suicide that change the generally upbeat and light tone of the material, but generally this is quite an enjoyable black comedy that should travel well on the festival and art house circuit.

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