TJFF ’23: Concerned Citizen

Directed by Idan Haguel, Concerned Citizen tells the story of Ben and Raz, an affluent couple in South Tel Aviv that purchase an apartment in an area that’s becoming gentrified. As they prepare for their first child, Ben’s concern for the neighbourhood grows, especially as their friends seem to be moving away. Then, one night, after an altercation over a neighbourhood tree, Ben asks the police to investigate. However, the arrest escalates quickly and Ben is left shattered by what he witnesses. Left to confront his own prejudice, Ben’s emotional journey tears away at his soul and, potentially, his relationship as well.

Although Citizen is a relatively quiet film, there’s a fire that burns within it. This is very much a story about the definitions of privilege and the prejudices that sneak into our lives unconsciously. In each conversation, Haguel wants the viewer to experience the frustration of stereotypes that we allow to live within us as we justify our own behaviour. For example, at first, Ben’s phone call seems warranted. (After all, he’s only protecting public property.) But the aftermath deteriorates so quickly that it forces him to re-examine his response and ask why he didn’t do more to prevent it. Suddenly, Ben begins to recognize that he looks at his neighbour through the lens of privilege. (In fact, Haguel even visually presents this idea by having him literally look down upon the incident from the safety of his elevated apartment.) 

Interestingly, as his journey towards self-discovery progresses, Citizen changes its tone from reflection to advocacy. Without giving any spoilers, Haguel wants to challenge the viewer to move beyond humble learning and appreciation and step towards action as well. In this way, Concerned Citizen becomes both powerful and poignant, deconstructing the worlds that we’ve built for ourselves and opening the doors in a healthier manner so that others to be a part of it.

Concerned Citizen is playing at the Toronto Jewish Film Festival. For more information, click here.

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