“Homeport” (“Namal Bayit”)
Returning to Dry Land
After thirty years at sea, Aaron (Yoram Hattab) returns home to the port of Ashdod, Israel in the hopes of winning back his family, but he soon realizes that life on land is more complicated then her thought. He accepts an administrative position at the port and soon finds himself in confrontation with Rahamim Azoulai (Shmil Ben Ari), a working class leader who tries to protect the world he’s built for himself and his men. This is the story of a port and the need to build a life even on shaky ground.
Director Erez Tadmor looks at the corruption of the port in Ashdod and treats the subject with a certain ambivalence. Aaron really wants to repair his relationship with his married daughter, Tali (Liron Ben-Shlush), who has recently had her first child and whose husband also works at the port. Rahamim is his best friend and the head of the local workers’ union and the de facto boss of the port. He is pleased by Aaron’s appointment to his new job and he believes that it will serve his own best interests. However, Aaron has no intention of compromising the integrity of his job, even at the cost of his longtime friendship with Rahamim and what he owes him for helping him and his family when Aaron’s father died.
“Homeport” is something of a morality play that pits a principled hero against a reality of professional anarchy and corruption, and it follows that hero’s struggle to hold to his principles and the price he pays for his moral backbone. We’ve seen many movies centered on a similar kind of conflict, often involving two friends whose years-long closeness turns sour when one of them fails to live up to the other’s expectations. Aaron is a man with a stubborn conscience and we see this in his attempts at reconciliation with his estranged daughter, who resents his many years of absence.
Aaron becomes involved with Yelena (Anna Dubrovisky), the port’s customs supervisor, who came to Israel from Ukraine, leaving her daughter behind. Their budding relationship is totally predictable from the moment we first meet Yelena and see the analogy between the two absentee parents. The eventual moral conflict to which their romance leads is a familiar one yet there is s a certain charm to the scenes between Aaron and Yelena.
While it seems like nothing but plot for much of the film, towards the end the movie manages to go further adding an ideological ambivalence that redeems it. At this point the moral forthrightness of the film finally blurs, and it suggests that rigid integrity might have consequences that neither the hero nor his adversary want. The result is a social, economic and political comment on who really rules the port and, by extension, the country, where processes mirroring those that take place within the port claim so many victims.