Tuesday, 30 September 2014
REVIEW: 'Salt of this Sea' directed by Annemarie Jacir
I love a film that tells me a story I haven’t heard before. ‘Salt of this Sea’ does exactly this. Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been prominent in the news for what seems like forever, I don’t think I quite appreciated the impact the ongoing hostilities have on individuals.
Soraya (Suheir Hammad) comes from her birthplace, Brooklyn, to Palestine in search of the money and property that her grandfather had to leave behind when he fled during the 1948 war. But it’s not as simple as that, of course. Soraya finds herself waking up to the injustice and trauma inflicted upon the Palestinians as her inheritance has disappeared. Soraya bonds with a taxi-driver, Emad (Saleh Bakri) waiting on a visa to emigrate to Canada. He joins forces with her to steal money from the bank and flee to Israel.
They find the house built by her grandfather has been taken over by an Israeli family. At first invited by the woman who now occupies the house to stay for a while, discord arises when the young Israeli woman will not acknowledge the theft.. Soraya and Emad seek out another ancestral home and, romantically, seek to live there but discover that they cannot, it is part of a national park; there to be seen, but not to be lived in.
Angry and rootless, Soraya is arrested for simply stating the truth; she was born in America but she belongs in Palestine. The final shot of her waiting in an airport lounge seems to sum it all up: a stateless person, forever in transit, unable to set down proper roots. Yet the ambiguous ending offers a bleakly hopeful note. Is she being deported back to the US, where she no longer feels at home or is she flying to Canada to reunite with her lover, Emad? In one sense Soraya encapsulates the plight of the expatriate Palestinian, caught between the privilege of a peaceful life in the developed west, and the guilt of the absent patriot. Her lover’s desire to leave Palestine is all too understandable. The human spirit can easily break with repeated humiliations at the hands of those in charge. This film is not easily available. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign downloaded this from the web for the viewing I saw. Despite being entered at Cannes for the 2008 best foreign film award, this necessary film has yet to find proper distribution. It is poetic, moving and entirely of the moment and deserves wider exposure.