Too much of the same thing torpedoes this potent essay on human rights in Israeli occupied Palestine.
Suheir Hammad plays Soraya, an American returning to her Palestinian roots, in this film of love, loss and desperation by Palestinian director/writer Annemarie Jacir. Hammad was born in Jordan in the Hussein refugee camp and her family immigrated to New York City when she was five years old.
This background makes her a perfect choice for her part in this film, the role of a disenfranchised granddaughter of a man whose land and money were swept away in the Israeli occupation of Palestine near her ancestral home of Jaffa. Hammad won a Tony award for her performance on HBO’s “Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry.”
Saleh Bakri plays Emad, Soraya’s new found Palestinian boyfriend who vows to help her receive fair treatment under the new banking systems and political rulers of the Palestinian territory near Jaffa. Emad takes the random strip searches, harassment and intimidation in stride as he makes his way from day to day, as a person without a country and seemingly without rights in the occupied territory.
The story begins with Soraya’s journey back to her homeland. She is on a mission to locate her grandfather’s land or at least the small amount of money remaining in his bank account when the Israeli’s took over control of the land. She is a waitress born and raised in the USA. She is not part of the intelligencia nor is she a person who analyzes international politics to death.
Simply stated, she has a feeling that her family is owed something in memory of what her father left behind. They are owed a scrap of dignity based on the lifetime of work that her grandfather dedicated to the land that was taken from her family.
She knows the bank still exists and is confident he can at least recover her grandfather’s small deposit when she explains matters to the bank officials. As it turns out, the account no longer exists because the country no longer exists. The brutal reality is that the bank still exists. The profit corporations never die, only the people who work in them and put their money in them.
Soraya and Emad develop a plan to get her money back by robbing the bank of the exact amount owed them. However, after the robbery a strange series of events threaten to destroy both of the lovers. Eventually, their hopes and dreams totter under the weight of international politics and international banking.
Although this film makes a good point, the point is not enough to fill the 109 minutes of the movie. The acting, directing and tone of the film are too static from start to finish. The film is heartfelt, to be sure, and filmed with care. There simply is not enough story or dramatic art to fill the space required. We will be seeing more and better work from this cast and crew in the future.
Directed and Written by: Annemarie Jacir
Starring: Suheir Hammad, Saleh Bakri, Riyad Ideis
Release: August 13, 2010
MPAA: Not Rated
Runtime: 109 minutes
Country: Palestine / Belgium / France / Spain / Switzerland