13 December 2015 | Nozz
Not just a late-arriving ET imitation
Abulele is, as the movie says, a traditional Jerusalemite version of the bogeyman. In this film, which bills itself as "for the whole family," he is shown to be frightening and sometimes out of control but not malevolent. It's explained near the beginning that he appears only to "special" children, and I was worried that we were on our way to another version of the protagonist who turns out to be "the one," but it turns out that "special" means something quite different, as the movie-- after an opening that may seem to promise little but boredom for adults-- takes a turn toward more mature and somber themes. Abulele seems sometimes like a film for the whole family in turn, rather than for the whole family at once, and at one point where the tension mounted I noticed a couple of small children leaving with their grown-up escort. As its "making of" short makes clear, the movie is notable for special effects and music. Abulele himself is played by a man in a furry suit with carefully engineered prehensile hands and with a computer-animated face superimposed. And although, as the filmmaker remarks, the whole project was brought in on a budget equivalent to the catering for a full-scale Hollywood movie, the music was recorded by a good-sized orchestra at a prestigious studio in London. The music does the job, setting the appropriate mood throughout, and the acting of Abulele by man and computer will satisfy any but the greatest sticklers. Much of the story retells E.T.-- sweet things tempt the creature to befriend the boy, there's a girl who comes to function as the boy's sidekick, the creature's return to its home becomes a constantly pending concern-- and the script even acknowledges the debt once or twice. But Abulele takes place in a different world, where inescapable reminders of the distant past take the place of futuristic visitors from elsewhere.