Set in 1981, Campfire explores the lives and loves of Rachel (and her teenage daughters Tami and Esti), as well as her misguided desire to achieve happiness and belonging by joining a settlement on the West Bank. It is not only about Israeli culture, it resonates on acceptance and community everywhere. With a subplot of middle-aged romance that is amusing and joyful, it is very entertaining.
All three female characters are played exceptionally well, Tami in particular in an amazing performance from someone so young. Hani Furstenberg gives Tami such complexity, such nuance, she is a joy to watch. Both Rachel and Esti are also skilfully portrayed, and Rachel would have to be one of the most appealing lead characters I’ve seen in some time.
The languid pace suits this film, which seems to have so much under the surface, waiting to bubble up – Esti’s grief over her dead father, Tami’s newly developing sexuality, Rachel’s desire to belong conflicting with her longing to experience love. Many issues are only briefly touched upon, before being left to simmer in the background, and you get a real sense that we are seeing only one of the potential stories of this trio of women. The depth they are given means we could easily have been told several others with the same success.
The interjection of a completely incongruous scene at the titular ‘Campfire’ had the potential to make the latter stages of this film entirely different, but the continuation of the settlement community storyline and the romantic subplot provide a uniformity that allows for this new twist and enables us to enclose it in the onscreen world.
Campfire is a very enjoyable portrayal of the difficulties faced by single mothers in achieving the best for their children as well as themselves, and also the trials of growing up in an unsettled society. The winner of five Awards of the Israeli Film Academy in 2004 (including best film, best director, best screenplay, best editing and best supporting actress for Hani Furstenberg), as well as the FIPRESCI Prize at the Chicago International Film Festival, it is rewarding viewing.Rating: