Wajib

 

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A film set in Nazareth that proves to be far less lightweight than it seems initially.

   
 Wajib
  

This is the third feature by the Palestinian writer/director Annemarie Jacir and the second to be released here. 2012's When I Saw You won admiration from many yet left me unconvinced but Wajib strikes me as being on another level altogether. Set in Nazareth, it has a large cast of characters yet comes close to being a two-hander in that the main focus is on just two members of a Palestinian family. One is Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri), a teacher in his sixties who, divorced, builds his life around his work and has hopes of becoming a headmaster. The other is this man's son, Shadi (Saleh Bakri), an architect who has made a life for himself in Italy but who is making a brief return to Nazareth. This is because he recognises the social duty (the wajib of the title) which expects a son on the occasion of his sister's wedding to travel with his father to deliver all the wedding invitations by hand. The sister in question is Amal (Maria Zweik) and we meet too a cousin, Fadya (Rada Akamuddin). Like the other figures that come and go, these roles are well cast and very well played but, even so, it is the father/son relationship that is always central here.

 

The early scenes that find father and son setting out by car to deliver invitations may bring to mind those films by the late Abbas Kiarostami that largely took place inside a travelling vehicle, but the tone here seems lighter. There are plentiful touches of humour and agreeable vignettes of those encountered (typical is an episode in which the father pretends to have an invitation for a man expecting one who had actually been left off the list deliberately). But, without any obvious surface change, Wajib attains a depth that is all the more impressive because it is so unassertive.

 

Jacir's film focuses on the different outlooks of father and son that have kept them at a distance from each other. Part of this is generational (for example, the father finds it difficult to accept that his son is really happy cohabiting with a foreign partner but not planning to marry her). But social and political viewpoints come into it too with the son critical of his father for kowtowing to individuals with influence whose actions against Arabs he regards as reprehensible. This particular conflict plays with full dramatic force because Jacir as writer allows both sides to have their say. Furthermore, the characters are not merely there to express a view but convince as individuals in their own right (thus the father/son relationship is convincingly affected by the son being less condemnatory than his father regarding the mother who deserted them and married again). Ultimately, there is no big climax in Wajib but by its close one has become aware that what might have been an agreeable but slight entertainment has taken on a subtle depth that resonates even if it doesn't quite stir us emotionally. It's interesting too to note that the two leading players, both admirable, are father and son in real life.

 

MANSEL STIMPSON

 

Cast: Mohammad Bakri, Saleh Bakri, Maria Zreik, Rada Alamuddin, Tarik Kopty,  Monera Shehadeh, Lama Tatour.

 

Dir Annemarie Jacir, Pro Ossama Bawardi, Screenplay Annemarie Jacir with Ossama Bawardi, Ph Antoine Héberlé, Pro Des Nael Kanj, Ed Jacques Comets, Costumes Hamada Attallah.

  
Philistine Films/JBA Production/Klinkerfilm/Ciudad Lunar/Apel&Bjørn/Snowglobe Film/Shortcut Films-New Wave Films.
97 mins. State of Palestine/France/Germany/Colombia/Norway/Denmark/Lebanon/UK/United Arab Emirates/Switzerland/Qatar/Australia/Republic of Korea/Turkey/USA. 2017. Rel: 14 September 2018. Cert. 15.