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The boys in
The Bubble

The boys in
The Bubble


Here's the pitch: Two men--one Israeli, one Palestinian--fall in love. The backdrop is an insulated bohemia surrounded by one of the world's most war-torn regions. In his latest film, director Eytan Fox takes us inside the bubble that is Tel Aviv.

Noam, the lead character in Eytan Fox's controversial new drama The Bubble, is an out gay man who swoons to Jeff Buckley, watches too many reality shows, and dates a man his wary roommates disapprove of. Sounds like your typical Chelsea gay guy, only Noam is a Jew living in Tel Aviv, and his new beau, Ashraf, is a Palestinian Arab. The lovers are star-crossed from the start, and it's no surprise that each young man struggles for some semblance of inner peace after a lifetime of fierce religious conflict between their cultures.

"I think young people in Israel are really sick and tired about living the way we've been living for so many years," insists Fox, who first gained international notice with the gay romance Yossi & Jagger. "They're expressing themselves in different ways, saying we don't want to live this way anymore and we won't live this way anymore."

The film takes its name from the derisive term many Israelis apply to such an optimistic outlook, branding any attempt to live a life shielded from conflict as a form of denial. "A lot of people in Israel hate Tel Aviv," says Yousef "Joe" Sweid, who plays the Palestinian character Ashraf. "They think that people in Tel Aviv live in 'the bubble,' that they are only thinking about peace and they are not thinking about the real world.

"In Tel Aviv everyone is very open," continues the Haifa-born Sweid, who moved to Tel Aviv with his Christian Arab family at age 19. "For me, coming to live here was quite a shock, and for Ashraf, it's very odd. I felt like him, with this changing of worlds. He comes from this family where he can't say that he's gay, so to see the sexual freedom in Tel Aviv, the drugs, the parties, the getting drunk--for him, it is a symbol of freedom."

Though Israel has lately grown far more gay-friendly (thanks in part to Fox, whose 1997 television show Florentine opened eyes with its groundbreaking gay characters), Fox says that level of tolerance is rarely shown to other religions. "There's one famous story that reached the high courts about this Jewish guy living in Jerusalem who had an Arab Palestinian lover that the government wanted to deport and send back to Palestine," Fox says. "And the Palestinian said, 'If you do this, just for being gay, I will be murdered or tortured. And sleeping with the enemy, that's even worse: I'm not only gay, I'm sleeping with a Jewish man.' "

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Kyle Buchanan