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By Jordan Hiller


Only Human (2006)  

I guess you could say if you’ve see one 2006 dysfunctional Jewish family dark comedy made by a husband and wife team where the unorthodox brood includes a ba’al teshuva son, a promiscuous daughter, and a forbidden relationship, you’ve seen ‘em all. If only I could refer you to my review of When Do We Eat? and say “ditto” (or rather the Spanish version of “ditto”). In Dominic Harari and Teresa De Pelegri’s film set in Madrid, the forbidden relationship takes center stage as this traditional Spanish family meets their new potential son-in-law at a Friday night meal. Compared to the Palestinian intellectual their daughter brings home (Guillermo Toledo as Rafi), they likely would have preferred Pauly Shore. While the comedy is at times sharp but mainly chaotic in that frenzied European style, it seems the filmmakers actually intended to make a statement about Jews, Arabs, and the possibility that love can out maneuver politics and overcome unimaginable historical and social barriers. That is if you are highly liberal, unaffiliated, and uninvolved with the struggles of your people. And this film tries to make the argument between the slapstick laughs that we can all just get along….if we each individually choose to live in a separate encapsulated universe. Of course - although right now I am being way too serious considering how intentionally silly this film is – if you do have a sense of national identity, such relationships will prove difficult to endure, no matter your open-mindedness. The filmmakers do say however, that they made this film in partial response to the terrorist attack on a Madrid train on March 11, 2004.

But now to the true merit of this film and the reason it trumps its American charoset flavored predecessor. It is just much funnier. Funny to the point where I was laughing so uncontrollably on the LIRR, that the business-suited middle aged woman sitting across from me started laughing too. Both films certainly have their somber elements played strangely for laughs (here, a key plot point involves the Palestinian beau dropping a cube of frozen Shabbos soup out of the apartment window and killing his fiancé’s father), however Only Human keeps the lunacy from growing mean-spirited. Also giving Only Human the nod is the rich, believable characters. While WDWE?’ s ba’al teshuva was a sermon spouting chabadnick, the boy here, played joyfully by Fernando Ramallo, is simply a tzi-tzis and yarmulke wearing awkward teenager who lights Shabbos candles, tries to keep the house as kosher as possible, and hits on a Chinese girl just before the closing credits. Also legitimatizing this film as a truly sensitive work is the character played by Maria Botto, as Tania, a twenty eight year old single mother living at home making a living as a belly dancer and a self proclaimed slut. The honesty of her character and Harari/De Pelegri’s ability to find some humor and levity in her misery (by staging confrontations with her religious brother and even a belly dance off with Rafi) provides some much needed depth to what would have otherwise been an all out farce. As far as political statements go, Only Human is kind of immature, but as far as immature comedies go, this one is a winner.

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Reviews by Jordan Hiller

When Do We Eat?

Oscars 2006

La Petit Jerusalem

We Were So Beloved


Best of 2005 1995


Brokeback Mountain

Walk the Line

Match Point

Broken Flowers

The Constant Gardener


Protocols of Zion

Good Night and Good Luck

Everything is Illuminated


Red Eye

The Goebbels Experiment

The Island

Hustle & Flow


Batman Begins

House of "D"

Le Grand Role

The Ballad of Jack and Rose

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Million Dollar Baby

Assault on Precinct 13 (AP13)

A love song for Bobby Long

BEST FILMS of 1994

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Beyond the Sea

Hotel Rwanda



Surviving Christmas

The Grudge

Vanity Fair

Door in the Floor

Before Sunset

Spider-Man 2

White Chicks

The Day After Tomorrow

Super Size Me


Never Die Alone

Eternal Sunshine 

The Passion  


Hiding and Seeking:  Faith and Tolerance after the 


The Ten Best Films of 1993 

The Statement

Big Fish

Hebrew Hammer

Forget Baghdad

The Missing

Master and Commander

Kill Bill

Trembling Before G-d


Veronica Guerin

Pieces of April


Bubba Ho-tep

Casa De Los Babys


American Splendor


The Holy Land

Return from India

The Shape of Things

City of Ghosts

Anger Management


The Guys

Assassination Tango

Gaudi Afternoon


Nowhere in Africa

Foreign Sister


L’chayim, Comrade Stalin
part 11

part 2


Divine Intervention

The Pianist

Best films of 2002 1992

8 mile

Punch Drunk Love


Gaza Strip

The Kid Stays in the Picture


Minority Report



Spring Movie Preview 2002

Panic Room

The Oscar Preview 2002

Royal Tenenbaums

Harry Potter

The Man who Wasn't There

From Hell

Training Day

Hearts in Atlantis

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

the others

Planet of the apes

Jurassic Park III


Shrek & Atlantis

The Mummy Returns

Enemy At the Gates


Exit Wounds

15 Minutes

You Can Count on Me

The Mexican

Down to Earth

Meet the Parents

Golda's Balcony HERE

Tribeca FIlm Festival 2005

Opening Night – Premiere of The Interpreter

Opening Day Press Conference


Little Peace of Mine

Looking for the Lost Voice

Tribeca FIlm Festival 2004

Photo Gallery HERE

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Coffee and Cigarettes

Super Size Me


The United States of Leland


Tribeca FIlm Festival 2003

Daily Coverage: HERE

Photo Gallery HERE

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Resisting Paradise

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The Shape of Things

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Persona Non Grata

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