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Holocaust survivor Ulah Lippmann (Julia Blake) hears of a terrorist attack on a synagogue in her Melbourne neighbourhood. She has no idea she'll soon find herself held hostage by a Muslim radical, Sadiq Mohammad (Firass Dirani), who's on the run after surviving the bombing. Desperately wounded, Sadiq sees Ulah's flat as a place to hide while he plans his next move. So begins a terrifying ordeal that will force Ulah and Sadiq to confront their own pasts - at times driven by mutual need; at times by unexpected revelations; at times by events outside the flat. Fear and hatred turn to sympathy as Ulah takes control, not turning Sadiq in, but nursing him until she discovers his shocking secret.

Review by Louise Keller:
It is the comment of a mother to another woman's son that epitomises the essence of this tense film that addresses the cultural differences that form the world's deepest divides. 'If the world was run by mothers, there would be more sons,' says Jewish Holocaust survivor Ulah (Julia Blake) to Sadiq (Firass Dirani), the fugitive Muslim terrorist who has found his way into the elderly widow's apartment. The directing and writing debut of editor David Pulbrook, this is a topical and pertinent film, concisely written, grounded by its profundity and made real and accessible by two superb performances.

It only takes a few moments in the opening sequence to get a snapshot of Ulah, as she goes about her morning shopping in her Jewish suburb. She clearly has a relationship with the shopkeepers: her butcher jokes that if anyone gets the better of his astute customer, it will be a first.

As she is buying a slice of cake at the bakery, we sense something is amiss. As mobile phones ring around her and the shop is quickly emptied, Ulah is oblivious that a bomb has exploded in the nearby synagogue, leaving a terrorist at large. Accosted as she reaches her apartment in a quiet leafy suburb of Melbourne, Ulah is gagged, her hands tied to a chair. Her swarthy, bearded assailant mutters his dastardly violent pledges against the Jews in Palestinian Arabic until Ulah reveals she understands his language. She had lived in Israel after leaving Germany before the war.

The indelible markings from a concentration camp do not escape his notice. But she understands more than the language: she understands the passions of a young man immersed in his beliefs as a soldier. The photo of her own soldier son Ali in a Palestine war zone speaks volumes, taking pride of place among her collection of framed memories.

As Ulah, Julia Blake gives an uninhibited performance, depicting a resilient woman who has survived despite the odds. The transition from victim to a woman in control is reflected not solely in physical terms, but also by the way Ulah thinks, which Blake is able to convey beautifully. Firass Dirani's journey as Sadiq is even more complex as he does not have the wisdom of her years or experience. His hatred and anger turn into fear and vulnerability as rational thought is allowed to enter his consciousness. Dirani makes these transitions seamlessly.

Pulbrook's film (co-scripted with Terence Hammond) slowly and skillfully changes the balance between Ulah and Sadiq. Power and control shifts from the wounded, knife-yielding assailant to the former nurse with the sewing needle as surely as a seesaw wavers from the shifting weight of its two participants. For Ulah there are a few key moments before passing the point of no return; her decision to help Sadiq is far more complex than words can express. Beyond the intimate memories shared with each other from their respective pasts, there is something far more precious that evolves: an understanding that transcends age, gender, nationality and religious beliefs.

Ultimately it is the inexplicable deep bond of compassion between a mother and the young soldier who had lost his own mother many years before that gives the film its heartfelt anguish. I felt as though a knife had been twisted in my heart in this simply expressed, complex story about conflict and the impossible bridges required for a resolution.

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LAST DANCE (2012) (M)
(Aust, 2012)

CAST: Julia Blake, Firass Dirani, Danielle Carter, Alan Hopgood, Marta Kaczmarek, Robert Plazek, Ben Prendergast

PRODUCER: Antony I. Ginnane


DIRECTOR: David Pulbrook

SCRIPT: David Pulbrook, Terence Hammond


EDITOR: Philip Reid

MUSIC: Michael Allen

RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 1, 2012

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