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December 17, 2013

S#x Acts

by Franz Patrick


S#x Acts (2012)
★★★ / ★★★★

In the middle of “S#x Acts,” written by Rona Segal, our protagonist, Gili (Sivan Levy), is asked by a couple of female classmates about some of the rumors about her being sexually involved with Omri (Eviatar Mor), one of the most popular guys at school. The scene is very familiar—at least on the surface—one that we tend to encounter in teen comedies. It usually involves a mean girl stirring the pot just to see what will happen.

But the film is neither a comedy nor does it involve a stereotypical blonde harpy seeking to maintain the status quo. Instead, we recognize these kids. We see them in the streets. We probably have or had friends like them. Maybe some of us were them at some point. Directed by Johnathan Gurfinkel, “S#x Acts” takes a look at teen sexuality seriously through a young woman’s eyes and how her decisions—questionable, sad, pathetic—lead her to corners that inspire the vicious cycle. Ultimately, it shows that exercising one’s freedom of sexuality comes—or should come—with a level of responsibility. Not every one of us is aware of the importance of the latter.

The picture is shot with such a naturalistic feel, it is almost like voyeurism. This is especially noticeable when Gili and some other guy become intimate. The camera is still and it observes from three to five feet away. But when it zooms in on hands—where they are going, what they are touching, the intention behind them—it is appropriate to wonder if we should feel uncomfortable, excited, or maybe a little bit of both. Over time, however, the feelings become more defined. By the sixth title card, I felt a mix of anxiety and disgust.

It encourages us to sympathize the main character even though it is easy to judge her. In my opinion, despite the synopses, Gili wants more than popularity in her new school. She wants to be accepted and she has equated that yearning with having a boyfriend. It isn’t as shallow is it sounds when the material is executed just right. When we are young, racked with insecurities, and in the process of figuring it out, we tend to feel less like weirdos when there is someone willing to stand next to us. The early scenes are most interesting. Gili tries so hard to get the attention of Tomer (Roy Nik), Omri’s best friend, but with rather unimpressive results. So, Gili makes a gamble by using her body.

Seeing the home lives of some of Gili’s partners is not necessary. Instead, I would have liked to have known more about how she is like at home and her relationship with her parents. What are her interests? I wanted to know how she defines herself outside of having to need others’ approval. Why is she ashamed of others finding out where she lives? Does it go beyond her peers being more privileged and the fear of being judged? Outside of her sexuality, there is room for us to understand Gili a bit more.

“S#x Acts,” also known as “Shesh peamim,” succeeds in showing its protagonist being treated like an object. Most tragic is how she chooses to treat herself like an object, too. She deserves better—certainly—but not everyone gets what he or she ought to have without making mistakes, learning to wise up, and embracing self-love.

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