News from the Locarno Festival


Concorso internazionale

In the weeks leading up to Christmas in Nazareth, a father and his son are visiting friends and relatives to deliver invitations to his daughter’s wedding. Like a neo-realist film, Wajib (Duty) uses this narrative structure as an expedient to enter into the private space of homes and to develop a very precise social and human description. The resulting micro-stories prove an ideal tool for representing the reality of a country torn between flight and resistance, between acceptance of the status quo and rebellion. The attitudes of the father, an elderly teacher by now integrated into a way of life that has made a state of exception the rule, and the son, an emigrant to Italy and in a relationship with the daughter of a PLO leader, sketch out a network of possibilities that deftly show the difficulty of living in or relating to Palestine today. Like a neo-realist film, Wajib allows reality to break into the narrative pattern. Making a choice both ethical and aesthetic, Annemarie Jacir cast Mohammad Bakri and his real-life son Saleh in the two main roles. Not only are the two actors extraordinary in their ability to move from character to person, but they enhance the story with a mutual understanding that would otherwise be impossible to reconstruct. Their physicality is the best counterpoint to a film that otherwise is based much on what is not said or off-screen. The absence of the future bride’s mother functions as a constant reminder of a wounded, mutilated, celibate world. Without dwelling on the reasons for this absence, Jacir lets the story follow the rhythm of visits, giving credence to the title, which in Arabic means “duty.” Wajib is in fact a film about rules, about form as that thing that remains when substance has been lost.

Carlo Chatrian

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