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For a movie rooted in reality, Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo's taut psychological drama is in desperate danger of drowning in metaphor. Inspired by the case of an Arab man whose roof was occupied by Israeli soldiers for more than a decade, it boils down the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis to the invasion of a single Palestinian family's...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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For a movie rooted in reality, Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo's taut psychological drama is in desperate danger of drowning in metaphor. Inspired by the case of an Arab man whose roof was occupied by Israeli soldiers for more than a decade, it boils down the ongoing conflict between Arabs and Israelis to the invasion of a single Palestinian family's house by four Israeli soldiers. High-school principal Mohammad B. (Muhamed Bakri), his wife, Samiah (Areen Omari), and their five children live in a spacious house on the edge of the occupied territories. The nights are filled with gunshots and the sound of hovering helicopters; Samiah wants to move but Mohammad can imagine nothing worse than being refugees. And then the largely theoretical argument becomes concrete: Three Israeli conscripts and their commander, Ofer (Lior Miller), kick down the door and commandeer the house: It's strategically located between a Palestinian village and an Israeli settlement, and the upstairs windows offer clear sight lines for snipers. Speaking in English — the lingua franca between Arab and Hebrew — Ofer tells Mohammad to gather his family and leave. Mohammad refuses and brokers a compromise. The soldiers can have the upstairs; the family will live on the ground floor and agree to be locked in the living room at night. The children attend school, Mohammad goes to work and Samiah keeps house, but the stresses of living with an occupying army are enormous, in ways both mundane and life-altering. Easygoing eldest son Jamal (Marco Alsaying) fantasizes about using a stolen hand grenade to take violent revenge on the soldiers, while angry, defiant oldest daughter Mariam (Hend Ayoub) sneaks into the forbidden zone and spies on them from a wardrobe, coming to the unwelcome realization that privates Eial, Dan and Arial (Tomer Russo, Niv Shafir, Sahar Lachmy) are just ordinary young men, barely older than she is and deeply ambivalent about what they're doing. Costanzo sums up his film's politics in a single bald exchange: "Why don't you leave this house?" asks Ofer. "Why should I?" Mohammad replies. "This is my house. Why don't you leave my house?" But Costanzo evokes a world of human complexities in his characters' relationships, and the film's sadly ironic ending is anything but simplistic. (In English, Hebrew and Arabic with English subtitles)

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  • Released: 2004
  • Rating: NR
  • Review: For a movie rooted in reality, Italian filmmaker Saverio Costanzo's taut psychological drama is in desperate danger of drowning in metaphor. Inspired by the case of an Arab man whose roof was occupied by Israeli soldiers for more than a decade, it boils do… (more)

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