We may not witness much of the desert in Tayla Lavie’s depiction of life at an Israeli Defense Forces Human Resources office, but we do see plenty of sabras (native Israelis). Hebrew for “prickly pear,” sabras are Jews who have hardened themselves on the outside to conceal any hint of a vulnerable interior. Yet however tough the green-uniformed, female soldiers in Lavie’s film may act, they constantly give themselves away as quite the opposite. Life in the army is punctuated by daily temper tantrums, whether about chores or bunk bed preferences or boys. The discipline comes from the women’s inspection officer, a woman whose stout frame and penchant for feverish scolding fashion her into the parodic stereotype of a matron. In Zero Motivation, which garnered two awards at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival (Best Narrative and Best Director), the office becomes a battleground. Staple guns fire more shots than Uzis, competitive games of Minesweeper draw blood and the paper shredder stands as the ultimate threat of oblivion, at least when it comes to one’s professional reputation. But while tenderness may be hard to come by in this acerbic film, Lavie leaves room to convey her characters’ dreams and desires, whether over career goals, romantic prospects or the fraught yet enduring bonds formed between fellow soldiers.
West Coast Premiere