‘Are you a Hebrew woman?’ James excitedly enquires of the immigration officer at Tel Aviv airport, who raises an eyebrow before dispatching the wide-eyed would-be pilgrim to the holding cells. A devout budding pastor en route to Jerusalem on behalf of his African home village, James instead finds himself bailed into the migrant worker pool overseen by small businessman Shimi, an apparent prison that proves a gateway to the vagaries of cash and consumerism. Barring one or two magic realist touches, the cautionary tale that unfolds is familiar stuff, but it’s mapped on to an intriguing imaginative clash, between the Holy Land as conceived by the devout of the wider world – a longed-for land of milk and honey – and the reality of contemporary Israel, seen here as dominated by cynical avarice. Ultimately the plot is too schematic and its ironies too obvious to engender much real tension, but Siyabonga Melongisi Shabe remains thoroughly engaging in a role that could have tended towards priggishness at one extreme and callousness at the other.
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