James' Journey to Jerusalem - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

James' Journey to Jerusalem Reviews

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May 4, 2017
This is one of my all time favorite movies. A recurring theme, 'ani lo fryer' Israeli slang for "I'm not a sucker/ pushover" has made its way into our family vocabulary. James is beautiful. His intentions and journey are beautiful. The Israeli people are flawed. You wind up loving the whole cast. So human.
November 29, 2010
A sometimes funny tale of faith and corruption.
July 6, 2010
A scathing commentary about the underbelly of urban Israeli society by director Ra'anan Alexandrowicz. Siyabonga Melongisi gives a convincing and exceptional performance as James, the undocumented African worker who is exploited but learns to exploit in order to avoiding becoming a 'frayer'.
February 15, 2010
The hypocrisy is thrown up on the screen in a simple yet profound way. It's a film that critisizes religion from the inside and it's all the better for it. Where it really suceeds though is in forcing you to take a deeper look at yourself. "James Journey to Jerusalem" is a smart and perfectly charming movie of wonderful performances with one great ending.
½ November 25, 2009
Who We Are Versus Who We Should Be

At the beginning of the film, an Israeli immigration officer (Yael Levental) tells James (Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe) that she has heard his claim--that meeting her, an actual Israeli Jew like in the Bible, is a great joy to him--thousands of times. She does not believe it; experience gives her no reason to believe it. Young men like James are in Israel, here Tel Aviv, to make money and lots of it. She tells him that there are many other places he could go to do so, and why is it always Israel? Her experiences have convinced her that no one claiming pilgrimage who is an illegal immigrant is actually on one, that she should have no reason to believe they are. James burns with zeal, and he wears a large cross, but to her, he is just one more man across the desk trying to use piety as a dodge.

James is from a small village in Africa. He has agreed to go on pilgrimage to Jerusalem and then return to be a pastor to his village. It is his duty to his people. Only he gets busted by immigration in Tel Aviv first. He gets put into a lockup with other men from around the world, all of whom have come to Israel for one reason or another, and it's probably true that it's money for a lot of them. Either way, however, he is chosen by Shimi Shabati (Salim Dau) to be released and come work for him as a house cleaner. Shimi has a deal going with a man who helps run the jail, apparently, and he chooses James because James looks trustworthy or something. While James is there, he rapidly loses interest in pilgrimage and gains it in money, starting his own secret business on the side, undercutting Shimi's prices.

Of course, there are the obligatory moments where James is shown to become what he does not wish to be, but the most important one is also the most subtle. No mention is made by anyone of the fact that, by the end of the movie, James no longer wears his cross. Oh, it's a big deal when he yells at Sallah (Arieh Elias), Shimi's father, and it's a big deal when he uses the same words to a former friend that Shimi uses to him. However, no one comments on the cross. Indeed, I'm not sure when he stopped wearing it. Midway through the movie, he has the choice between completing his pilgrimage and making more money; it is possible that this is the moment when he takes off the cross, but if it is, I missed it. The point is, he leaves his village for a quest which he then loses the trail of, and we may not even notice the first steps aside.

The fact is, James is an innocent at first. It was Shibe's first movie, and it was an excellent choice to cast an unknown. At first, he even declines his pay so that he may pay of his debts faster and make his pilgrimage and return home. We know, however, that he stays in Tel Aviv for at least a couple of months before the climax of the movie. He is there long enough to bring Sallah's garden from a barren patch of weeds to a real showpiece, somewhere actually worth visiting. You can see sitting out there. He tells Sallah that he is a farmer, but by the end, he is not doing the work himself but instead hiring it done so he can make even more money. James's naďveté is a little overdone at the beginning of the movie, I think to throw his later worldliness into sharper contrast. It is to Shibe's credit that he manages to pull it off.

There are many things to be noted about James, Shimi, Sallah, the background characters. I have seen mention made of the idea that Shimi's attitude seems drawn from the worst possible stereotypes, but honestly, you would be able to find him in any country, even James's own. Shimi is trying to get ahead, and he does it by taking advantage of those around him. Doubtless the world holds many Shimis, and the fact that he is a Jewish stereotype does not mean that he isn't a reasonable character to present here. After all, James himself begins to fit the stereotype by the end of the film. At the beginning, he had been coming to know and love Sallah, helping the man break out of a crusty shell which had probably been building up around him since the death of his wife. By the end, he might as well be putting it back in place by himself. It has nothing to do with ethnic heritage; it has to do with attitude. Wealth, or the prospect of it, is corrupting James, the point being that it could just as easily corrupt any of us.
Super Reviewer
September 18, 2009
Extremely well done independent foreign cinema from Israel. Every single aspect, from direction and plot to acting and development, should be appreciated as much as good as it results. Have an open mind and a pacient soul, and you should have no problem at all.

½ May 11, 2009
Very nice comedy and human movie. Must see
November 16, 2008
An interesting story about the struggle between idealism and pragmatism; unfortunately, it is a bit too conventional and formulaic to be truly unique.
November 3, 2008
Hey! a story with a moral
October 20, 2008
Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe puts on a brilliant performance in this sad/funny tale of life in modern Israel. Think of the plot as allegorical--the father representing the early state with the son being the literal and metaphorical heir. "James' Journey" asks "where are we going, and who will we be when we get there?"
September 3, 2008
This movie was a BIG treat... Wonderfully done.
March 2, 2008
Nice interpretation of contemporary life in Israel. Tragic comedy. All that glitters is not Gold.
January 11, 2008
On greediness of the modern-day culture. Thought provoking.
November 12, 2007
James has a great future ahead of him: he is going to be his small African village's pastor. In fulfilment of his religious and priestly duities, he embarks on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, the Holy Land.

Israel of today is somewhat different from what the deeply-religious James, and the people from his village, could ever imagine. Upon landing, James is detained by the border police, which does not believe his claim to be a pilgrim and suspects him to try to enter the country in order to work illegally. James is thrown into a detention centre for illegal immigrants, awaiting his deportation.

While praying in his sordid cell to God to allow him to complete his mission, a miracle occurs. A mysterious stranger posts bail for him. But very soon it turns out that his saviour is no other than a human trafficker, who bails out detained migrants in order to expolit them in hard work.

James adapts quickly, and the film goes about how the naive, deeply-religious country boy learns the cruel economic realms of modern Israel (or for that matter - of any capitalistic system). Eventually, from being exploited, he learns out to exploit others. He leanrs an important lesson: if you want to thrieve - don't work hard. Make others work harder for you. Or in contemporary Hebrew - Don't be a "frayer".
November 8, 2007
An interesting story from Israel. Well made and extremely watchable.
October 31, 2007
heard it was great and would LOVE to see it.
October 31, 2007
a metaphor for how easily we get sidetracked seeking God
October 22, 2007
Un film qui fait du bien la ou ca fait mal ; a mi chemin entre les dieux sont tombés sur la tete et les films de Mike Leigh ou Ken Loach.
October 2, 2007
Very Good display of life lessons in an enteraining manner from beginning to end...
July 23, 2007
An interesting tale with a good message, James' Journey is much more complex and reveals the overall greediness and unsatisfying nature of modern-day life.
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