Taking a tip from the post-WWII Italian neo-realists, Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi uses the unfolding history of his own torn and troubled homeland as the backdrop for this touching and extremely timely tale of a traveling projectionist's attempt to bring cinema to the children of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Jabir (Ghassan Abbas) and his wife,...read more
Taking a tip from the post-WWII Italian neo-realists, Palestinian director Rashid Masharawi uses the unfolding history of his own torn and troubled homeland as the backdrop for this touching and extremely timely tale of a traveling projectionist's attempt to bring cinema to the children of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Jabir (Ghassan Abbas) and his wife, Sana (Areen Omary), live in the West Bank camp of Kalandia, the site of one of over 50 Israeli checkpoints restricting civilian movement throughout the region. Sana provides medical care for Palestinian refugees while Jabir devotes his days to his passion: trucking his broken-down projector to the territory's towns and screening his small collection of films for the area's children. Getting around, however, isn't easy. The West Bank is dotted with checkpoints where Israeli soldiers examine ID papers and search Palestinian cars, often forcing them to turn back. After an afternoon of hassles, Jabir finally makes it to Bethlehem where, while the kids of the Al-Dhesha camp sit enraptured by the images projected onto an old sheet, he is introduced to a young teacher named Rabab (Reem Ilo). She loves what Jabir is doing, and wants him to set up a screening at her school. The problem is that her school is in Jerusalem and comes under the authority of the Israeli Minister of Education, who's likely to reject the plan until tensions ease. Besides, as a West Bank resident, Jabir is forbidden to enter Jerusalem without a special permit. When the undaunted Rabab promises to arrange everything, Jabir becomes determined to screen his movies in Jerusalem, even if it means risking his life. Like Hany Abu-Assad's recent RANA'S WEDDING (2002), in which a young woman must negotiate the restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation of the West Bank in order to get married, this is a deceptively simple story that reveals much of the anger driving those who feel their lives are severely limited in what is, theoretically, their home. Masharawi's use of actual footage of clogged roadblocks and scary police actions bring a topical immediacy to his film, but it also asks an important question about the relevance of art during a time of crisis. As Jabir goes about his business, he's chided by nearly everyone he meets; they can't believe he's fussing with movies when people are living on the verge of oblivion. Countering these objections, however, are the joyful expressions of Jabir's audiences, children for whom cinema quite clearly comes as both a blessing and a relief. (In Arabic, with English subtitles.)
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