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Tel Aviv on Fire 2018

Tel Aviv on Fire | Tel Aviv Al HaEsh

Tel Aviv on Fire-Tel Aviv Al HaEsh

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Shy and loveable Palestinian Salam is already in his thirties without, however, having quite found his way in life. That is why he eagerly takes on an internship with the successful TV soap 'Tel Aviv on Fire'.

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About the Tel Aviv on Fire 💬

Israel/Palestine, today.

Salam Abbas (Kais Nashif), a charming 30-year-old Palestinian living in Jerusalem, works as an intern on a popular Palestinian soap opera, '''Tel Aviv on Fire,'' which is produced in Ramallah.

Every day Salam must pass through an arduous Israeli checkpoint to reach the television studios.

He meets the commander of the checkpoint, Assi (Yaniv Biton), whose wife is a huge fan of the show. In order to impress her, Assi gets involved in the writing of the show.

Salam soon realizes that Assi's ideas could get him a promotion as a screenwriter. Salam's creative career catches fire, until Assi and the soap's financial backers disagree on how the soap opera should end. Squeezed between an Army Officer and the Arab backers, Salam can only solve his problems with a final masterstroke.

Director Sameh Zoabi uses TEL AVIV ON FIRE to approach the conflict in the Middle East from a completely different, original and heartfelt comedic angle.


Tel Aviv, in the fateful year 1967. Rumors of war are everywhere. Manal, a glamorous Arab woman, is planted as a spy in the heart of the city, calling herself Rachel, a Jewish immigrant from France. Her mission: to befriend and seduce one of the most powerful military figures in Israel, Yehuda, in order to learn the Israeli war plans.

Manal is a master chef and has opened the best French restaurant in Tel Aviv. Rachel's restaurant is located across from the Israeli Army headquarters. From there, she can meet Yehuda, and her sweet delicious French pastry catches his attention. As the weeks' pass, Rachel and Yehuda become lovers. The secret to a powerful man is his stomach. But has Manal really fallen in love? Has she forgotten her Palestinian cause? That she is the daughter of a refugee family from Jaffa? And most importantly her lover, Marwan, the resistance fighter who sent her into danger?


Q: TEL AVIV ON FIRE is a comedy. What does it mean, making a comedy in Israel when you are a Palestinian?

Sameh Zoabi: It's a big challenge to make a comedy dealing with the Palestinian and Israeli reality. People take the region and the conflict very seriously, and any attempt to make a comedy can easily be misunderstood as not strong or not serious. But I believe that comedy allows the freedom to discuss very serious issues in a more subtle manner. In my films, I try to entertain but also to speak truthfully about the human condition of where my characters live.

My first feature, Man Without A Cellphone, was inspired by my upbringing; I was not necessarily seeking to make a comedy, but rather to be truthful to a reality I grew up with as a Palestinian. A constant sense of despair hovers, yet there is spirit and a sense of humor around the dinner table. With TEL AVIV ON FIRE, the story deals directly with this idea of conflicting perspectives. Similar to my previous film, the tone is comedic - not to make light of a situation that is more dire than ever before, but rather to use the insights that comic exaggeration can bring. As Charlie Chaplin put it, ''To truly laugh, you must be able to take your pain and play with it.''

Q: Salam, your main character, is working on an Arab soap opera produced in Ramallah. Why a soap opera?

Sameh Zoabi: Soap operas are a big deal in the Middle East. People watch them and are fully taken by them as well. What I find interesting is that the people who watch soaps find the acting and straightforward dialogue more believable than the subtle acting and dialogue of feature films. The soap opera medium allowed me to explore things that I may never be able to do otherwise in cinema. For instance, in the opening scene of the film, which I find quite political, the Palestinian characters in the soap express how they feel about the approaching 1967 Arab-Israeli war. They talk about their hopes, history, and fear of the Israeli occupation of Jerusalem. They speak emotionally, without filters, but because this scene takes place inside a soap opera, it provides a different twist.

Q: Did you watch soaps?

Sameh Zoabi: When I was growing up inside Israel, disconnected from the Arab world, there were only two TV channels. The Arabic-language shows were mostly from Egypt. They had the best soap opera series, particularly in the month of Ramadan; even Israelis watched. The show I created in my film is an homage to one famous show I grew up with. Nowadays, the reality has changed. There are hundreds of Arab TV channels and many shows from Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and even dubbed ones from Turkey and India. Soaps are watched everywhere. It's a universal medium. Recently, I was watching a soap with my mom. I was laughing at an emotional moment because of its over-dramatized acting and camera work, but my mom was holding a tissue, crying. This experience inspired me when writing and directing the film.

Q: How did you approach the film visually?

Sameh Zoabi: Visually, the film works on the contrast of two realities: the magical, colorful world of the TV soap opera and the daily, gritty reality outside the studio. We shot the soap scenes mostly in studios, using over-dramatic framing, lighting that heightened the mise-en-scène, vivid colors and, of course, dramatic camera movements. As for the daily reality outside the TV show, cinematically it was closer to cinema vérité. The camera work was more fluid and we shot on real locations with available lighting, except for the checkpoint which we had to create for the film.

Q: Can you talk a little more about the different levels in TEL AVIV ON FIRE?

Sameh Zoabi: When I showed my previous films, I saw how easily cinema can bring out the Palestinian - Israeli clash of narratives. There were those who thought my films were too Palestinian/insufficiently Israeli or the total opposite. These conflicting perspectives provide the underlying theme of TEL AVIV ON FIRE.

On a personal level, the film deals with an artist (an aspiring writer) who struggles to find his voice within such a contested political reality. I am drawn to people just like Salam who have not yet developed a full idea of themselves. They try to manage and find their place in their world while facing constant challenges and disturbances. I am attracted to characters who strive to change and improve their lives but are not sure how. Eventually, they find their voice through the journey of the film.

On a broader level, the film has two political lines: First, there is the history of war as told through the soap and presented by Bassam, the producer and creator of the show, who is also Salam's uncle. Bassam belongs to the older generation of Palestinians who fought in the1967 war but also signed the Oslo Peace Accord. And second, there is the daily reality of the checkpoints, which is directly related to this history. Eventually, the soap and the narrative's reality start to connect and merge. As a young Palestinian man, Salam finds himself struggling with these two realities. Salam's life and his dynamic with Assi are reflected in the soap and give it a different meaning. To put it simply, Assi, ''the occupier,'' wants to dictate his own narrative of a rosy reality on Salam, ''the occupied.'' As Salam's confidence grows, he realizes that this is impossible and he needs to stop it. Nothing can change in Palestine and Israel until both people are equal. This is the only way to move forward.

Tel Aviv on Fire Movie Details 🎥

Directed by

Sameh Zoabi

Writing Credits

Sameh Zoabi

Dan Kleinman


Kais Nashif

Lubna Azabal

Yaniv Biton

Shifi Aloni

Nadim Sawalha

Maisa Abd Elhadi

Salim Dau

Laëtitia Eïdo

Yousef 'Joe' Sweid

Ashraf Farah

Amer Hlehel

Ula Tabari

Wafaa Abo Zarifa

Amer Oklah

Music by

Laurent Brunet

Cinematography by

André Dziezuk

Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Countries: Luxembourg, Belgium, Israel, France

Tel Aviv on Fire Official Trailer

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