Fact and fiction collide in challenging Palestinian drama Sara 2014
Director: Khalil Al Mozian
Cast: Naim Al Khatib, Jamal Abu Alqumsan, Inas Al-Saqa, Haia Ashour
The realms of fact and fiction blend daringly in Palestinian filmmaker Khalil Al-Mozian’s new art-house drama Sara 2014, which had its world premiere at DIFF on Saturday, December 13 – and if you missed it you have a chance to catch its second screening on Monday, December 15.
A social portrait of a small group of characters in Gaza attempting to survive and be creative, the city masquerades as a backdrop to the action – before revealing itself as the narrative’s main character.
We begin with Jamal, a scraggly bearded oddball, apparently jobless, who appears to fill his days covertly recording his neighbours’s private conversations, hoarding dirty secrets and ugly assaults alike. One particular story shocks most – that of a woman called Sara, who is locked up and ritually abused by her brother after bringing shame on her family.
Scenes aren’t acted so much as staged, with brooding close-ups taking the place of dialogue and plot. Much of the film’s first act is taken up by collages of the Gaza’s streets, while Jamal’s stolen recordings play in the background.
We then meet Naim, an inert individual, torn between his art and his lover, remorseful but emotionally estranged from his wife and young daughter who have fled to Cairo.
It becomes apparent the pair are making a film – a film about Sara, a real person. The line between what is acted and rehearsed, between flashbacks and fiction, blur savagely. When the on-screen cameras stop rolling, actors debate their character’s motivations and fate. Naim has yet to finish the script, but needs to know the fate of the real Sara before he can complete the work.
At one point the radio reports an escalation in violence, and predicts a fresh war. Naim switches it off, and we see the film-within-a-film’s premise for what it is – the attempt by two individual to escape the reality of their environment, and make sense of the destruction these circumstances have already wrought on their lives.
But such a move will always fail – Gaza turns out to be bigger than their efforts, the stark reality of their surroundings the only constant, a constant that inevitably dictates both this film, and it’s fictional counterpart’s, endings.
The is not an easy work. A restless audience will find it’s unanswered questions and raw edits hard to stomach. But both as a social commentary on modern day Palestine, and a mediation on the artistic process, there is much to engage.
Sara 2014 screens on Monday December 15 at 9.45pm at Mall of the Emirates. Visit www.diff.ae for ticket information
Updated: December 13, 2014 04:00 AM