• [The Daily] Locarno 2017: Annemarie Jacir’s Duty

    By David Hudson

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    “A prodigal son’s Palestinian homecoming is marked by family obligations, comforting white lies and concerted efforts at matchmaking in Wajib, a wryly-observed family drama from writer/director Annemarie Jacir,” begins Screen’s Alan Hunter. “Loosely inspired by events in her own family, Jacir’s film follows Shadi (Saleh Bakri) as he returns to Nazareth for the wedding of his sister Amal (Maria Zreik). Tradition dictates that he should accompany his schoolteacher father Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri) as they personally hand deliver wedding invitations to a large extended family, friends and anyone else considered an essential guest.”

    “Like a neorealist 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,” writes Carlo Chatrian, artistic director of the Locarno Festival. “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.”

    “Bethlehem-born, Saudi-raised, New York-educated Jacir made waves with her Cannes-bowing 2008 debut Salt of This Sea, and followed up with When I Saw You (2012), skillfully imagining a child's eye view of the 1967 Six-Day War,” notes Neil Young in the Hollywood Reporter. “Shot in dunnish, dusty, digital shades by Antoine Heberle and clocking in at a trim 97 minutes, Wajib gives an unfussily illuminating snapshot of modern-day Nazareth, where a majority Arab population—most seen here are Christian—has found ways to get along under the fiddly, capricious restrictions of the Israeli state. It's a ‘small’ film which attempts to break no new ground either formally or content-wise, but works just fine within its chosen limitations as a solid dual showcase for Bakri pere and fils.

    For John Bleasdale at CineVue, “it is the apparently apolitical normality of Wajib which paradoxically is its most powerful political message.”

    “Jacir’s achievement is that these characters do not descend into caricature,” writes Joseph Owen at the Upcoming. “Abu Shadi’s conservatism and respect for tradition is balanced by a pragmatic, refreshing approach to others. . . . Shadi, conversely, is hot-headed and frustratingly obstinate. His politics of progressive nationalism have no pliability, no thoughtfulness. Yet, he is the character with whom we most sympathize, his ideas about architecture and aesthetics delivered pompously but nevertheless with intellectual ballast. The film wishes to show the reconciliation of distinct beliefs—these men love each other, know each other—and so we conclude on something crucial: the pleasure of giving respect.”

    For Variety, John Hopewell talks with Jacir “about filmmaking as a duty, Arab women in the film industry, and her latest feature, screening in the festival’s international competition.”

    Updates, 8/10: “Though visually characterless, and peppered with elements that feel less than fresh, Wajib has a well-written climax that makes it come alive,” writes Jay Weissberg in Variety.

    “For the young architect who lives abroad with his partner (and whose father claims that he’s a doctor seeking a wife in Palestine, because ‘people won't understand’), the worldview and small diplomatic lies told by his elderly father, who smokes too much, completely embody the place he once fled,” writes Bénédicte Prot for Cineuropa. “But the journey that marks his return to his hometown allows him to get back in touch with the young man he once was before moving abroad, discovering that he is able to uncover some hidden truths, teaming up with Abu Shadi for the same reasons—which are, all things considered, quite touching.”

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