Sunday, December 30, 2012

When I saw You/Lamma Shoftak (2012)

Director: Annemarie Jacir
Country: Palestine

Synopsis: 1967. The world is alive with change: brimming with reawakened energy, new styles, music and an infectious sense of hope. In Jordan, a different kind of change is underway as tens of thousands of refugees pour across the border from Palestine. Having been separated from his father in the chaos of war, Tarek, 11, and his mother Ghaydaa, are amongst this latest wave of refugees. Placed in "temporary" refugee camps made up of tents and prefab houses until they would be able to return, they wait, like the generation before them who arrived in 1948. With difficulties adjusting to life in Harir camp and a longing to be reunited with his father, Tarek searches a way out, and discovers a new hope emerging with the times. Eventually his free spirit and curious nature lead him to a group of people on a journey that will change their lives. When I Saw You is the story of people affected by the times around them, in search of something more in their lives. A journey full of adventure, love, humor, and the desire to be free. A story of the human spirit that knows no borders.- Internet Movie Database (IMDb)

Review: The film tells the tale of the displaced through the life and dreams of 11 year old Tarek. The daily irritations of camp life and Tarek’s delight in meeting with the Fedayeen are portrayed with a sharp and sensitive touch. In 2013, Palestine may attain observer status in the UN. But even now, Tarek’s desire to go “home” is echoed by the diaspora.

The plight of the displaced is always very close to our heart. Anyone who has left home, by choice or by force, can empathise with them. But Jacir decides to take an uncharted route to tell the tale. She chose to spare the blood and tears from making yet another display of its nakedness and helplessness. They are hinted at in the most discreet manner possible. But the light and hope shining out of Tarek illuminates the despair and misery surrounding him. He himself is immune to all the grown-up diseases of pessimism and cowardice. He can see Palestine from Jordan, it is ridiculously close. He refuses to believe that he cannot reach there.

The cinematography is a poetry in motion. The story is gut-wrenching, yet inspiring. The direction is by a genius with the vision and courage to discard labels. Jacir uses simple, staightforward techniques to tell what, afterall, is a simple tale. I was amazed by the way she has spared the Israelies. There were no rants and ravings about their atrocities which somehow makes them seem even worse. Mahmoud Asfa as Tarek is magnificient. His heart-breaking innocence and untouched beauty are two of the major positives of the film.

A haunting film, which surges up in your conciousness, whenever you think of home, for days to come. I can never, ever, really forget Tarek and his look when he answers his Fedayeen friend’s enquiry as to his destination. To which he repies: “Home!”Maybe that is the only real desire of every human being, to go home, to the place where we belong, physically and spiritually.

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