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DIFFDIFF Journal 2017London Film Festival: Five Reasons Why Enjaaz-supported Wajib Offered A Unique Perspective On Arab Cinema
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London Film Festival: Five Reasons Why Enjaaz-supported Wajib Offered A Unique Perspective On Arab Cinema
Fri Oct 13, 2017
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Supported by Enjaaz and winner of the DIFF Award at the 2015 Dubai Film Connection, Wajib is the only Arab film playing in official competition at the BFI London Film Festival. It’s a wonderful moment for Palestinian cinema and director Annemarie Jacir who addresses several universal themes in the film. The film screened twice so far at the festival and was warmly received and applauded for its performances, tone and honesty. Here are 5 reasons why Wajib was a great highlight for Arab cinema at the festival:

1. The Unique Approach:
At a time when most Arab films seem to focus on political or socio-political themes, linked to the Arab spring or internal political affairs of the countries they represent, Wajib offers a fresh take on modern Palestinian life without any reflection on politics. While most Palestinian films heavily address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Wajib barely relies on any political themes to drive its story forward. This is one of the key elements that surprised audiences at LFF and certainly offered them something they didn’t expect.

2. Universal themes:
The film relies on universal themes that audiences – regardless of their origin – can easily relate to. It is first and foremost a film about identity. Coming to terms with oneself, accepting who you are and being open to how you can be better for yourself and those around you. It’s an accessible central theme that crosses cultural boundaries and plays well with audiences at large.

3. Comedy:
Comedy is the best way to tackle heavy themes without being heavy-handed or alienating for an audience. Annemarie Jacir opts for comedy to address themes of identity in accessible, entertaining ways. The film is full of sweet moments of cultural clashes and father-son dynamics. It is executed in a way where comedy conveys the message in subtle but memorable ways, and offers a platform for Jacir to provide stark and honest social commentary within a character-driven context.

4. Performances:
Wajib marks the first time Saleh Bakri plays alongside his real-life father Mohammed Bakri. Both actors shine in their roles and anchor the film with emotional and funny turns as polar-opposite characters with very different points of views about themselves, each other and about what it really means to be Palestinian. It’s a question that Jacir admitted – in the film’s Q&A – was one of the key drivers for her in making this film and it was essential that the performances bring this to life. Both characters grapple throughout the film with who they are versus what others want them to be – and that internal versus external perception is the main factor which informs the performances in the film.

5. Context:
Instead of a political crisis or a major incident impacting an entire nation, the film’s context is a deeply personal one – a father-son relationship. It’s a fascinating dynamic which underlines everything happening in the film and transforms it into a relatable, but also personal and touching, viewing experience. It’s also why the film’s key master scene towards the end plays so well – audiences feel like they now know the characters and understand their subtle and direct differences. When these arguments reach a tipping point, the audience is deeply invested in what’s to come.
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