Magical and tragical realism, aka thoughts on “What About Me?” (Istrael, 2008, 13 min)

What About Me? is a 4 minutes long Israeli short film from 2017, made available online on YouTube by JFI (Jewish Film Institute). Here is my page about the film with synopsis. You may want to watch the film first, at the end of this post, as my insight below contains spoilers. 

The most fascinating aspect of good magical realism is the nature of the one random magic touch it utilizes. Eg. animals that can talk have long been a recurring motif of folk fables in a lot of culture. Nowadays however it is less common. That’s why it is not just shocking when the donkey and later the dog starts talking in “What about me?”., but also provide comic value. It is subtle, there were no warning signs beforehand, the filmmakers didn’t prepare the viewers in any way what’s coming.

Poster for Stories on Human Rights

If you follow though Middle Eastern politics, the tragic aspect of the movie is less surprising. Procedures for passing to the other side at a lot of borders, even under the best of circumstances, can seem haphazard for outsiders. In countries that have tense relationships they can turn into outright Kafkaesque. And that’s exactly the tragic situation what this short parodies. Why is the border where it is, what’s the difference between passing passing between two boulders or around them, why does the color of the pass matter? All utterly important questions for the bureaucrat who set the rules up, and meaningless for us lesser humans.

Nevertheless rules are rules and enforcement is vital. For the bosses hence for the cogs in the machine too. We, the viewers, can just laugh at the absurd situation. I wonder thought whether the point the film’s creators are surely making–humanely applying rules should consider unique circumstances–would be lost on the rulemakers.

The film was made Etgar Keret and Shira Gefen. Keret is a well-known writer and actor. who outside Israel may be best known as the author of “Wristcutters: A Love Story“, which was turned into a critically acclaimed movie in 2006. (Check his list of books in English and the DVD version of the movie.) The short film is part of, Stories on Human Rights, a compilation of 22 shorts that were procured for the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 2008, see official website

Now have fun: 

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