David & Layla

Lisa Nesselson*

Written, produced and directed by Iraqi Kurdish exile Jay Jonroy and
based on a true story, "David and Layla" is an earnest, frequently
funny comedy about stateless persons and the looming clichés that
make Muslims and Jews so wary of each other. Completely
accessible and non-threatening tale of the unlikely romance between
a quintessential Jewish New Yorker and a lovely Kurdish refugee… Painless intro to the
customs and attitudes surrounding two of the world's great religions is a natural for Jewish and
other fests.

David Fine (David Moscow) hosts a man-in-the-street show on local TV in Brooklyn called "Sex
and Happiness," but finds himself increasingly frustrated by his JAP fiancée Abby's (Callie
Thorne) demands. Fearless wise guy David is drawn to mysterious looker Layla (Shiva Rose), a
young woman whose immediate family and boyfriend were gassed by Saddam Hussein.

Layla has been taken in by prosperous relatives and illegally earns money as the slinky but
never vulgar warm-up act for a traditional belly dancer; her aunt and uncle (Anna George, Ed
Chemaly) think she's attending nursing school. U.S. immigration authorities give her 30 days to
leave the country, but a sympathetic inspector tells Layla it'd be hard to deport her if she were
married to an American citizen. Following mostly specious tips from his French cameraman,
David courts smart, sharp Layla; against all odds, they fall for each other. Dreading their
respective families' reactions, much subterfuge results via a sort of two-pronged "Guess Who's
Coming to Dinner?" for the 21st century.

It's a lot quicker for David to convert to Islam than for Layla to qualify as a Jewess, however, and
what transpires when one of the chosen people chooses to become a Muslim is pretty funny if
hardly subtle.

Narrative is so ambitious it often feels overstuffed, but indie production boasts a brand of
immigrant chutzpah that highlights the "anything is possible" side of the American Dream with
energy to burn.

Production values are pleasing, varied score a plus. Shiva Rose (Layla) excels as a self-reliant
damsel in distress worth rooting for.

Camera (color), Harlan Bosmajian; editor, Egon Kirincic; music, Richard Horowitz, John
Lissauer; production designer, Peter Yesair; costume designer, Zulema Griffin; sound (Dolby),
Daniel Johnson; assistant director, Michael A. Moffa; second unit director, Joseph Aspromonti;
casting, Adrienne Stern. Reviewed at Avignon Film Festival (competing), June 22, 2006.
Running time: 105 MIN.

A Newroz Films presentation of a Films Intl. and Intrinsic Value Films production. (International
sales: NewRoz Films, New York.) Produced by Jay Jonroy. Co-producers, Gill Holland, Aimee
Schoof and Isen Robbins.

Directed, written by Jay Jonroy, inspired by a true story.

With: David Moscow, Shiva Rose, Callie Thorne, Peter Van Wagner, Polly Adams, Will Janowitz,
Ed Chemaly, Anna George, Tibor Feldman.

Posted: Wed., Jun. 28, 2006, 5:08pm PT  David And Layla (U.S.-Iraq)

Lisa Nesselson,  Paris/France Variety Film Critic

source: www.newrozfilms.com