CIFF Review: The World is Funny


[Flixist will be attending the 48th Chicago International Film Festival over the next few weeks. Be sure to follow along as we bring you coverage from the longest-running competitive international film festival in the country. You can easily keep track of the coverage here.]

Films with intertwining stories can be some of the toughest films to shoot. Besides handling an excess amount of characters, weaving in and out of each storyline can be confusing, especially if some threads are left untied. However, when a film is successful in tying everything together, it leads to a wholly more entertaining film.

Read on to find out whether The World is Funny did it right.

The World is Funny (Haolam Matzhik)
Director: Shemi Zarhin
Rating: TBD
Country: Israel

The World is Funny centers around three characters: Yardena (Assi Levi), Meron (Dani Shteg), and Golan (Eli Finish). With their relationships strained by their respective pasts, the siblings don’t talk to each other. However, they’re tied together through Zafi (Naama Shitrit), an aspiring young writer who cleans houses in her hometown of Tiberias in order to find inspiration for her stories. In the face of their personal struggles and problems, they all find ways to find humor in their lives, no matter how cruel the irony can be.

I tried my best to summarize the film without spoiling anything, but to get deeper into the film’s narrative (and thusly each characters’ subplots) would ruin the fun of figuring out exactly how everything and everyone is tied together. Despite its interwoven nature, the film is still relatively linear, which helps ease any potential for confusion. 

Given its title, the film has its comedic moments. However, it’s all bittersweet and ironic. There were times where I’d chuckle to myself (because I’m a gentleman and a scholar), then scoff when one of the low turns took place. Granted, the film is funnier than it is sad, but a real sense of empathy exists. Each subplot could have been mired in panful melodrama, but Zarhin’s writing finds a way to feel for every situation without ever feeling pity or guilt. 

The cinematography is very vibrant throughout the film, with instances of black and white sequences during Zafi’s writing workshop scenes. I honestly don’t know what it is about foreign films, but they always seem to put a large emphasis on their use of colors. I know I probably sound like a broken record at this point, but there’s a lot to be said when a tone can be kept consistent through a film’s acting, narrative, and cinematography.

The World is Funny received 15 Ophir (the Israeli equivalent of Oscars) nominations, and it rightfully deserved every single one. Despite its large cast, every actor delivers great performances; despite its multiple subplots, each storyline weaves together perfectly and efficiently. You owe yourselves a favor to check The World is Funny out if it ever arrives in your local indie theaters (or when it eventually releases on home media).