Prelude to a Tragedy


Filmmaker Yehuda Maayan read a brief news story a couple of years ago about a 17-year-old Palestinian girl, who blew up a Tel Aviv café, killing herself and a 22-year- old Israeli woman.

The item started Maayan thinking and writing about the lives and attitudes of the two women and what led to their violent deaths.

The result is a 29-minute film, “Dry in the Mouth,” which will be screened at the Workmen’s Circle/Arbeter Ring this Friday evening.

Tracking the last few days in the lives of Laylla, the Palestinian, and Shir, the Israeli, the film presents alternate segments of each protagonist talking about her thoughts, ordinary activities and encounters with a boyfriend.

Laylla, an observant Muslim wearing a hijab head scarf, has no doubt about her mission and the justice of her cause. She describes the progressive steps toward her final act in a calm, almost cheerful, demeanor.

Shir, with her long, flowing hair and makeup, is every bit the modern young sabra. A university student, she is much more conflicted than Laylla and longs for peace, though no longer believing it will ever come.

Despite its static format, the film, starring actress Jean Franzblau, has an edgy sense of impending doom as the perpetrator and her chance victim draw ever closer to each other.

Maayan was born and raised on Kibbutz Dan, a stronghold of egalitarian socialist Zionism, and later served in a tank unit.

Although he has lived mainly in the United States since l984, his plain, outspoken manner is still more kibbutz than Hollywood.

In his outlook and work, Maayan is motivated by a sense of social justice, he said while sipping a drink in a Westwood café.

“I think I’ve evolved from the self-righteousness of the activist to a more spiritual, inclusive vision of a better world,” he explained.

Maayan makes his living as a sound mixer for Hollywood movies. But now, in his late 40s, he has decided to focus on his longtime career ambitions of writing and directing socially relevant documentaries.

“Dry in the Mouth” screens at 6:30 p.m., May 13, at the Workmen’s Circle, 1525 S. Robertson Blvd, followed by a potluck Shabes dinner. Both Maayan and Franzblau will attend. For information, call (310) 552-2007.