Pink Subaru tells the story of Elzober, an Arab sushi chef working near the border of the West Bank in Israel. For his entire working life, he saved his earnings so that he can buy the respected Japanese car, a Subaru Legacy. Elzober is particularly ecstatic because he will be driving his younger sister around for her upcoming wedding. However, the day after he takes home his coveted Legacy, its stolen by car thiefs. Thus begins Elzober’s journey to retrieve the love of his life.
Newcomer, Kazuya Ogawa, directs. Ogawa was inspired by his observation during his stay in Israel that almost all the vehicles on the road were Subarus. The history behind this is that in the 1970s, Subaru was the only car manufacturer who would service the Israeli market due to political pressures from its much larger Arab neighbors. Subaru’s availability and high quality were respected by the people. As a result, Subaru now boasts over 80% share in the Israeli market.
Ogawa took this background and the setting, Tayibe, an Israeli border town, and crafted this story entirely around the day-to-day lives of ordinary people, not around the political conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. When Ogawa shows you the mundane interaction between the Jewish car saleswoman and Arab customer or the bright smiles of the Jewish and Arab children playing soccer together, you are just immersed in each moments’ inherent beauty. His pictures make you forget that there are underlying racial, religious, and political conflicts.
The film is entirely spoken in Arabic and Hebrew with local actors (with the exception of a few Japanese side characters). Rather than creating distance with the subject matter, the film exudes Ogawa’s love for this foreign country, its people, and culture. Being a Japanese director, rather than creating distance with the material, infused the film with a distinct charm brought on by third-party appreciation.
The star, Akram Telawe, who plays Elzober, breathes incredible life into his character and the overall film. Elzober is in pretty much all scenes. Rather than buckle under the heavy pressure, his powerful face is tremendously expressive and the numerous extreme closeups are a delight. Needless to say, Telawe carries the film.
There are many memorable moments that stick with you much after the film ends. Elzober wearing pink underwear, the child who is driven to the next town by the car thief who is stealing the car the child is in, and the ending, which is predictable, but cute and endearing nonetheless, just to list a few. Perhaps not all the moments are necessary to the story, but give context to the situation and characters and a joyful richness.
Japan Flix is proud to add the beautiful, hilarious, dramatic, and touching Pink Subaru to its collection. We hope it expands everyone’s conception of Japanese film.
Check out the film’s page here.