When Israel "liberates" Nazareth, one Arab family quietly stands firm. Young husband Fuad (Bakri) makes guns as part of the resistance and is constantly harassed by Jewish militia, while his wife (Qudha Tanus, then Bajjali) tries to make life as normal as possible for their young son Elia (Hanna, Espanioli, then Suleiman). Over the years the situation changes, but their home remains constant, as do their colourful neighbours. And for every act of violence, there are at least five absurd events that keep things in perspective.
The film is made up of scenes from 1948 to the present with echoing themes and characters but no over-arching storyline. As a result, the movie never builds much momentum, although it would certainly resonate strongly for those familiar with the situation. For the rest of us, most references are obscure (if that), and many of the clearly symbolic elements remain elusive. So it feels somewhat random in its scattershot approach as it meanders through scenes that repeat or echo each other like poetry.
Some of these sequences have real power, such as when a tank follows a man as he empties his bins while talking on his mobile phone, or when armed police try to disperse a Ramallah rave. Repeated scenes in which a neighbour douses himself with petrol then tries to light it, or when patrolling soldiers harass two night fishermen, have tense subtext even though the film maintains a slapstick tone through the black humour and disturbing violence.
In the later scenes when Suleiman plays himself, he adds a Chaplinesque quality. This has been there all along but becomes more noticeable through this middle-aged man's passive, curious stare. This style of performance (and filmmaking) extends right through the movie, given the whole thing a period feel. Even if it never quite comes together for most audiences, the film has historical value as Suleiman beautifully depicts these momentous events as seen through his own childhood eyes.
Run time: 109 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 12th August 2009
Box Office USA: $31.8k
Box Office Worldwide: $753.8 thousand
Distributed by: IFC Films
Production compaines: France 3 Cinéma, nazira, Nazira
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Fresh: 37 Rotten: 7
IMDB: 7.1 / 10
Director: Elia Suleiman
Producer: Michael Gentile, Elia Suleiman
Screenwriter: Elia Suleiman
Starring: Ali Suliman as Eliza's Boyfriend, Elia Suleiman as Eliza, Saleh Bakri as Fuad, Avi Kleinberger as Government Official, Doraid Liddawi as Ramalla IDF officer, Amer Hlehel as Anis, Nati Ravitz as IDF Commander
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