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These 'Office' Politics Would Involve the Knesset

November 9, 2011 By:
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Dvir Bendik (seated, forefront) lords over the staff of his Israeli "Office."

 

Would Michael Scott ever take his Office out for a halvah break?
 
Not in Scranton.
 
But quite possibly in Tel Aviv, where an Israeli version has wowed local audiences since last year.
 
Shot in the shaky-camera style originated for the BBC program -- created by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant, subsequently adapted for the American version by Greg Daniels -- this The Office is schmeared with the cream cheese not so much of human kindness as sarcasm, Israeli style.
 
As Avi Meshulam, Dvir Bendik --star of A Matter of Size, the heavy-duty comedy of sumo-inspired Israeli wrestlers that played Philadelphia's 2010 Israel Film Festival -- is Israel's version of the somewhat smarmy politically incorrect/inept boss so winningly played by Gervais in England and Steve Carrell here (until last season).
 
But the beefy Bendik looks and acts like a Mideast Norm, and one expects his every entry into The Office to be greeted by shouts of "Avi!"
 
With Meshulam surrounded by a motley mix of office types -- doesn't every office have an Israeli Arab staffer who considers the song "Keep It Gay" a personal anthem; and an Orthodox employee slowed down on her exit for Shabbat by her pregnancy -- this version is a hoot and a shout-out to Israeli, uh, temperament.
 
Where to find this The Office? At New York's fifth annual Other Israel Film Festival www.otherisrael.org, starting an eight-day run of diverse works on Nov. 10 that deal "with community and identity, social revolution and the experience of women."
 
And one inappropriate -- and very funny -- office boss who proves that British/U.S. comedy can cross the desert and leave its own tracks and laugh lines in the sand. 

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