The story of The Ballad of the Weeping Spring seems to be removed from any specific place or time. One may assume it is set in Israel since the characters speak in Hebrew, but this is not an existent Israel, nor one that ever truly existed. It is rather a dreamland, a purely fantastical and cinematic Israel.
The film is stylized as a western but is also clearly inspired by samurai films. Against Israeli scenery, its characters, wanderers of sorts, are equipped with hats, vests, boots; the works. That is, with one small difference: these men are not slinging guns. Musical instruments function as their tools of survival. Yosef Tawila, the protagonist, explains he was a “dead man” until awoken by a familiar tune, bringing him to pick up his tar (lute) for the first time in twenty years. He then returns to life.
The director, Beni Torati, pays tribute to classical Persian-Mizrahi music in this film, a second in the trilogy beginning with Desperado Square (Kikar Ha-Halomot, 2001). The classical Persian music and instruments stand at the center of this creation, demanding our appreciation, an appreciation rarely, if ever, received in Israel of the 1950’s when Torati was growing up.
One of the main characters is portrayed by Dudu Tassa, who also starred in the NYJFF 2012 hit, Iraq ‘n’ Roll, which explored similar themes. In last year’s documentary, Tassa, a popular and well acclaimed Israeli musician, embarked on a journey to breathe new life into the classical Iraqi music of his grandfather who arrived in Israel in the 1950’s. This Mizrahi music was looked down upon and eventually erased in the young state, controlled by European-Ashkenazi hegemony.
The Ballad of the Weeping Spring tells a tale of hope and of revival. It provides an opportunity to watch a very different kind of Israeli cinema and is filled with beautiful Persian music.
The Ballad of the Weeping Spring will be screened at the New York Jewish Film Festival, on Thursday the 24th at 3:30.
Daniella Satran Reifen, 2013 Festival Blogger