When Pigs Have Wings

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 19 July, 2012, 12:00am


Starring: Sasson Gabay, Baya Belal, Myriam Tekaia
Director: Sylvain Estibal
Category: IIA (Arabic, English and Hebrew)

Racial segregation and suicide attacks hardly sound like ripe sources for comedy, but French novelist-turned-filmmaker Sylvian Estibal's directorial debut manages to mine these tricky issues for black comedy without resorting to tasteless jibes. Though lacking in coherence and boasting characters with inconsistent traits, When Pigs Have Wings remains a humane exploration of ennui for marginalised individuals seeking a way out of their misery.

At the centre of Estibal's story is Jaafar (Sasson Gabay, above right with Uri Gabay), a fumbling Gazan fisherman whose daily catch usually consists of a few small fish and a lot of gross flotsam. Deemed a village idiot by most - and that's including his long-suffering wife Fatima (Baya Belal) - he is further ostracised for having (unwillingly) allowed Israeli soldiers to be stationed atop his house in a makeshift guard post along a road leading to a Jewish settler's colony.

And when Jaafar somehow finds himself having fished a pig out of the water one day, he thinks his misfortune is complete. But after failing to kill the creature deemed filthy by Muslims, he hears of how the settlers might raise it along with their pigs. Jaafar's attempt to hawk it to the Jews somehow brings him into contact with Yelena (Myriam Tekaia), a Russian emigre who agrees to pay for the beast.

That Jaafar would eventually find himself branded a traitor and then becoming a human bomb speaks volumes about the fantastical nature of When Pigs Have Wings.

Funny as some of the gags may be, they are somehow too loosely strung together, foisting on the film an uneven tone. It pales in terms of drawing audience rapport (and artistic subtlety) when compared to The Band's Visit, the 2007 drama that uses the awkward interaction of a Palestinian police band and their Israeli hosts in a desert town to convey some heartfelt, universal emotions about loneliness and love across cultural barriers.

Still, When Pigs Have Wings does momentarily fly with some of its vignettes, but it's not a film that has substantial things to say.

When Pigs Have Wings opens today