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THE BIG DIG

Israel, 1969 (MIFF 1970, Programme C)

Director: Ephraim Kishon

A lunatic escapes in a milk van which drops him in the midst of a road building team from which he steals a pneumatic drill and starts to dig in the main square of Tel Aviv. Police stop the traffic in the belief that he is working for the council, and pandemonium breaks out. The mayor orders an inquiry into who ordered a canal to be dug through the middle of the city, and accusations fly between departments like memoranda. No one acknowledges responsibility until heads of departments begin to suspect that someone is carrying out a redevelopment plan without their knowledge. So they compete for the credit, sending bulldozers and workmen, who join in digging the canal until Tel Aviv becomes another Venice. When the mayor opens the first regatta, he is interrupted by a municipal clerk who has discovered the truth. So he is taken to the asylum, leaving the lunatic still at large ....

For the first time a technically flawless pic has been produced by Israelis on a major scale. And out of Israel has come a picture which has nothing to do with Jewish suffering .... Kishon's script sometimes carries his satire too far, almost into caricature. But most of the time he remains within the boundaries of the human and possible. The realm of the possible is, of course, the pertinent, frightening aspect of satire. But director Kishon is constantly aware that satire works only as long as it is funny.

Lapi in Variety

A humorous but biting send-up of bureaucracy gone mad, directed with great zest and vitality.

Edinburgh Filrn Festival programme

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