Arye Sharuz Shalicar’s autobiography A Wet Dog is Better Than a Dry Jew (the title a harsh summation of the prejudice that drove the author’s parents from Iran) forms the basis for Damir Lukacevic’s thought-provoking film about how the need to find one’s place can lead to self-denial and toxic reinvention. Soheil (Doguhan Kabadayi), the 16-year-old son of Iranian-Jewish emigres, moves from a peaceful town in central Germany to the Berlin neighborhood of Wedding, where he experiences anti-Semitism for the first time from his mostly Muslim peers. As a means of self-preservation, he hides his Jewish identity and joins a gang, rising in the ranks as petty crimes lead to drug sales and altercations with police, but always with the constant threat of being found out. Croatian-born German filmmaker Lukacevic transposes Shalicar’s 1990s-set memoir to the present day, driving home the point that bigotry and the impulse to conform are dismayingly perennial.
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