The Alian family returns in season two of the delightfully provocative hit series Arab Labor. In the first season of this wildly popular sitcom (SFJFF 2008),we met protagonist Amjad Alian, an Israeli Arab reporter for a Hebrew-language newspaper whose attempts to assimilate his family into mainstream Israeli Jewish society served as an opportunity to satirize the prejudice and stereotypes that exist on both sides of the Middle East conflict. This year, SFJFF screens the United States premiere of Arab Labor 2, with three episodes so brand new they are literally being rushed from the editing room.
The season kicks off with a fresh start. Amjad, shocked by the superior quality of the shower at his Jewish friend Meir’s house, storms city hall demanding “equal water pressure” for Jews and Arabs. City hall responds by placing a demolition order on his apartment, so Amjad packs up the family and moves to a Jewish neighborhood. The premise is reminiscent of the 1970s American sitcom The Jeffersons, which also dealt with issues of race and social inequity through humor. But the situations that Amjad finds himself in are unmistakably contemporary. Amjad is quickly mistaken for both a terrorist and an Israeli soldier. One misunderstanding lands him in trouble with the police, the other with Palestinian kidnappers.
Amjad’s predicaments finds result from cultural miscommunications so absurd it it is hard for anyone not to laugh. That’s the magic behind Arab Labor. Writer Sayed Kashua puts the issues right in front of our faces in all their complexity, and dares us not to crack a smile.