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March 2004

JAMES' JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM
Distributor: Zeigeist Films
Directed by: Ra' anan Alexandrowicz
Produced by: Amir Harel
Screenplay: Ra'anan Alexandrowicz and Sami Duenias
Cast: Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe, Salim Daw
In Hebrew, English and Zulu with subtitles
     

Everyone comes to the United States believing this is the Holy Land, the land of hopes and dreams. Little do they realize that with freedom comes hard work and a sacrifice of some kind. The same can be said for any country that welcomes immigrants, illegal or not. In James' Journey to Jerusalem, a young African seeks Jerusalem as his paradise, but finds his quest interrupted when money and power come to play and his dreams sidetracked. It's an enjoyable film filled with a universal story and a commanding performance by its lead actor Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe.

James (Shibe), is on a mission. He wants more freedom, more money, and more opportunities to explore life. Essentially, he seeks happiness and solace. He believes Jerusalem will offer that. Head strong but na´ve, he lands in Israel and is immediately picked up by the local cops who believe he's there to work illegally. Rather than face deportation, he allows himself to be bailed by Shimi (Daw), a │businessman▓. Little does he know that Shimi basically using him to make a profit cleaning houses as he does with other illegals. James figures that with time, he will make enough to pay back his bail money and walk away, but finds that it's easy.

One of James' jobs is to take care of house of Shimi's father, who's reluctant to sell it and make a profit for Shimi to split with his wife. When the old man encourages James to make his money and run his business, James takes the advice serious. Before you know it, James is running a small empire exploiting his fellow countrymen for cash and power, while forgetting his mission to get to the promise land. Will he ever reach his quest or will capitalism push him further from it?

Director Ra' anan Alexandrowicz creates a situation where greed and power are universal themes but also where dreams are dash when distracted. Capitalism is perceived as the root of evil but it also can be looked at from the opposite way when putting things in perspective. Shibe is amazingly charismatic in his portrayal of a na´ve man who grows into a person he didn't set out to be, but finds himself with new a goal and realistic view life when his eyes are open finally to what life outside home is really like.

JAMES' JOUREY TO JERUSALEM is playing at the Film Forum, Houston Street, west of Sixth Avenue, New York