Recently it seems as though there is no such thing as an Arabic language film - Israeli or Palestinian - without the presence of actress Raeda Adun.
During the past year, two films in which she starred came to Israeli screens -"Trumpet in the Wadi" by Slava and Lena Chaplin, which a year-and-a-half ago took first prize at the Haifa Film Festival and the Israeli Academy Award for the best drama, and Ali Nasr's "In the Ninth Month," which last year won the Jury Prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival. On Sunday, there was the premiere Israeli screening of another film in which she stars: "The Olive Harvest," directed by Hanna Elias.
The film, which will be shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque today, is a Palestinian-American coproduction. The film tells the story of Raeda (Raeda Adun) and her relationship with two brothers: Taher, the younger brother, works for the Palestinian Authority and the older brother, Mazen, has been released from Israeli prison and wants to stay in the village and take care of the land. Adun's presence in the film, as in all the films in which she participates, is captivating, in part because of her enchanting smile, the mysterious sexuality she radiates and her piercing eyes.
Pathos and poetics
Adun plays a young woman torn between obligations and cultures, to the bitter end. Elias, a Palestinian director who has been living in California for the past several years, studied sociology at Jerusalem University and film at UCLA. He filmed the movie in the Palestinian Authority, during the olive harvest season, with the participation of scores of extras who live in the area. Very few films have been made in the PA, and this fact makes this film especially interesting.
The film is full of pathos, which is contributed mainly by actor Mohammed Bakri, who plays Raeda's father, and of poetics, some of it from poems by Mahmoud Darwish, which have to do with the love of a woman and the love of the land. The beginning of the film presents the secret romance that develops between Raeda, who represents the land, the village and perhaps Palestine, and Taher, a handsome young man, imbued with a sense of mission, who works in a department that conducts surveillance of new Jewish settlements in the territories.
Taher promises Raeda that he will marry her, but when Mazen gets out of prison his plans change, as according to local tradition the elder brother has to marry before the younger brother.
The idea of the wedding is postponed, but in the meantime a romance develops between Raeda and Mazen. In contrast to his restrained younger brother, the romantic Mazen reads poetry to Raeda and strokes her hair. And furthermore, in contrast to Taher, who lives in the city, Mazen and Raeda share a common dream - to remain in the village and engage in growing olives.
It is interesting to see the attitude toward Israelis in this film. The Palestinian villagers are presented in a moving way, they live in intoxicating landscapes and they have a colorful culture and songs. The Israelis, however, are presented through bulldozers that cut down trees, the settlers' luxurious homes that take over Palestinian land and soldiers at the roadblocks who act crudely toward the local inhabitants.
The Achilles' heel of the film is the large amount of attention paid to the settlements, an issue that, in fact, has nothing to do with the plot of the film, and seems irrelevant and forced.
"This is a Palestinian love film," said
Kamran Elahian, the high-tech person who produced the film, when he spoke after the screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque, "and when you film in Palestine, you don't film nice Jews who live in Tel Aviv or in Haifa, but roadblocks, settlements and bulldozers. This is the reality and anyone who doesn't believe it can go to the roadblocks himself and see what happens there. I have an American passport, and I've invested millions of dollars in Israel, but nevertheless they relate to me badly at those roadblocks."
According to Elahian, his aim was to show the beautiful and unfamiliar aspects of the reality in the PA. "I am not an Arab and not a Muslim," he said, "and I supported the film so that the entire world will be able to see Palestine as I know it. To my regret, every time the subject comes up in the United States or in Europe, people think of suicide killers and terrorists. On the American networks, I have never seen beautiful pictures of a Palestinian wedding or anything else connected to its culture."
The film was also shown last weekend in the PA, in Ramallah and in east Jerusalem; yesterday it was shown in Nazareth and today it will be screened in Sakhnin and Tel Aviv. "In Ramallah," related the director, Hanna Elias, "people asked me questions opposite to the Jews' questions. They asked why we didn't show more of the suffering in the PA, suffering that is caused by the settlements and the Israeli occupation, and the blood and the wounded. We explained that it is a film about love. A film with a message of peace and hope for the future."
According to the titles at the end of the film, half of the profits will be donated to Palestinian schools.
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