By Ron Merk
This is a very good film. I thought I’d start with that because I want readers to run as fast as they can to any venue which is showing this film by director Ziad Doueri. Hand in hand with his lead actor, Ali Suliman, the director has created one of the most complete and compelling portraits of the present-day struggle between the Israelis and Palestinians through this very personal look at the conflict.
Suliman plays a Palestinian surgeon named Amin who is fully assimilated into his Tel Aviv community, or so it would seem. He has just won a prestigious award from the medical community, but his wife does not attend for some reason, one she would not give him when he begged her to come along and share the award that he knows would not have been possible except for their lives together and her support. The very next day, his dream is shattered when a suicide bomber explodes a device in a restaurant where a children’s birthday party is taking place, and kills nineteen people. Many of the dead and wounded are brought to his surgery where he tends their wounds. His friend in the police department then tells him that he needs to come with them to the morgue, where Amin finds the partial body of his wife Sihem on the slab. Only the top half of her body remains, so Amin is able to identify her. He is immediately the subject of a police investigation, as a possible accomplice, and is treated harshly. Thus, the bubble in which he lives is burst, and the rose-colored glasses with which he has been viewing his world, are torn away.
Layer by layer, director Doueri peels away the many layers of Amin’s life that he has not been seeing. Amin goes to visit his sister in Nablus, a city in the Palestinian sector of the West Bank, and begins to learn the terrible truth about his wife and his family. At first, he is completely convinced of his wife’s innocence, but little by little, the truth emerges, and he is shaken to the core.
Ali Suliman starts his remarkable performance as a man very happy with his perfect life, and as he descends into the hell of the truth, we see him change from a handsome happy guy into a man obsessed, even at the risk of his personal safety, with learning the truth. Suliman’s face and gestures perfectly mirror the changes of Amin’s journey toward the truth, a masterful performance under a masterful director.
The film contains no extraneous scenes or shots. It moves along like a train, taking us, its passengers on the same painful journey as that of the main character. Scene by scene, shot by shot, we come to understand the terrible truth of this age-old conflict between the Arabs and the Jews, one of biblical proportions. We come to see it as a family feud, one between the children of Isaac and Ishmael, the half brothers fathered by Abraham according to the Old Testament of the Bible. What is worse than a family feud, and more bloody and endless? What is more troubling than being denied your birthright?
When Ali finally learns the truth, and returns to Tel Aviv, he tells his best friend, an Israeli colleague at the hospital what he knows. When she insists that he go to the police, and he refuses, she then begins to treat Ali like she would any other Palestinian that she does not know, with distrust and contempt. At that moment Ali’s descent into hell is complete, and he truly understands the nature of the conflict between the Arabs and the Jews. The film leaves him alone with this realization, and us, too.
This is a powerful film, well-written, directed and acted, one where I felt I was right there with the characters, watching this tragedy unfold.
The film is in Arabic and Hebrew with English sub-titles.
See the trailer: