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Good Films Are His Bread and Butter
As "The Human Resources Manager" at a bread factory in Jerusalem, the title character in Eran Riklis' award-winning film cuts the chaff from the wheat when it comes to employees.
But his job and life become ever more complicated when the body of a suicide bombing victim turns up unclaimed at the morgue with only a pay stub from her former employer -- the bread company -- as identification, embarrassing the owner of the firm, which didn't even know she was missing.
The film opens April 15 at the Ritz at the Bourse in Old City.
With the bread factory as background, the story has its share of twists and turns, braided by the U.S.-born, Israeli-raised Riklis into a sweetly sensitive parable of life passing by as if it were as unremarkable as passing the butter at dinnertime.
But it is a remarkable film -- one submitted by Israel as its entry in this season's best foreign-language Oscar category -- that swept Israel's Oscar equivalent awards this past year.
"It is all a journey of mutual exploration," reveals Riklis of the human resource manager accompanying the corpse back to her hometown in Romania as a way of assuaging the factory's sense of guilt.
The Jewish journey of Riklis has been an accolade-filled film sojourn, starting with his acclaimed "Cup Final" of 20 years ago through his last two efforts: "Syrian Bride" (2004) and his more controversial "Lemon Tree" of 2008.
That last effort bore some sweet and sour reactions stemming from its focus on a Palestinian family's lemon orchard about to be plowed under to accommodate an Israeli official's new home.
So how did Riklis manage to come up with "Human Resources Manager" when his career seemed more focused on political tracts? "After the last two films dealing" with political issues, it was time for a break, he claims.
"It is interesting for me to do such a film as this," he says of the uncontroversial current film that finds the humanity in an initially robotic human resources manager.
But despite his association with political trailblazers in the past, Riklis, 56, avers, "I do not do big message movies."
But he seems to play into their hands: Such is the case with "Playoff," Riklis' latest film festival favorite about Israeli/Holocaust survivor Ralph Klein, who goes on to coach Germany's national basketball team.
A team player -- Riklis is one of Israel's best cinematic representatives -- he concedes disappointment when "HRM" didn't manage to make the final cut of Oscar candidates this year. "I have been told that it was close," he says of the list.
But he is making a close connection with film fans worldwide with "HRM." Maybe because so many realize that solid, good work -- not politics -- is his career bread and butter.
And how better exemplified than in a slice-of-life film that is "HRM"?