Eyad (Tawfeek Barhom) is a young Arab attending a private school in Israel. Facing the challenge of being the only Arab student, as well as a number of run-ins with some young Jewish people, Eyad is struggling to do what his family believes is the best for him. Over the course of his first few years at school, Eyad becomes friends with Jonathan (Michael Moshonov), who is confined to a wheelchair because of muscular dystrophy, and starts a forbidden romance with Naomi (Daniel Kitsis), a Jewish woman in his class. While he may find acceptance from Naomi, Jonathan, and Jonathan’s mother, he realizes that his place in the world around him, and with his own family, may never be what he hopes it can.
Eran Riklis directs Dancing Arabs, based on a semi-autobiographical novel from Sayed Kashua, and does a wonderful job in the process. The film looks at the obvious problems Eyad faces at his school and with the people around him, but this isn’t the real focus of the film. The strongest aspect of the film looks at how Eyad finds his place in life. It’s a surprising path, and one that could have used a little more exploration.
Barhom, Moshonov, and Kitsis all deliver fantastic performances, with Barhom and Kitsis dealing with problems every teen can relate to, even if those problems begin in a very different way. They want to break away from their families, leaving behind the opinions that they don’t agree with. The problem is that they’re still teenagers, and these actions tend to be more talk when they realize how much they rely on their families.