Reviewed for & linked from Rotten Tomatoes by: Harvey Karten
Director: Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
Screenwriter: Tarzan Nasser, Arab Nasser
Cast: Hiam Abbass, Salim Dau, Maisa Abd Elhadi, George Iskander
Screened at: Critics’ link, NYC, 10/29/21
Opens: November 5, 2021

Gaza may have never been associated with love before, a hellhole of a place that might make people who watch the news think that it’s nothing more than a training camp for Hamas, a recognized terrorist group. But in the hands of Tarzan Nasser and his brother Arab Nasser, the geography may be unbecoming but love blooms in the saddest places. The Nasser brothers’ previous film is Dégradé wherein in Gaza, two hairdressers and ten customers of various ages and backgrounds spend the day trapped in a beauty salon while Hamas police fight a gang in the street. The Nassers this time cast a romantic spell without failing to dramatize the restrictions placed by Israelis on that strip of Middle Eastern land.

Electricity is available to Gazans only at the will of Israel. Fishermen and others are not allowed to sail past a three-mile limit on the sea. Though Gaza is known to have beaches fine enough to entice tourism and develop an economy, the occupation will not allow this kind of development. Unlike the situation in Hong Kong where the British colonialists set a specific date in 1997 to clear out. Israel appears to have no intention of freeing either Gaza or the West Bank.

The characters do not spend every hour planning political movies for independence. They live their lives like the rest of us. They make livings for the market, or as fishermen, or a retailers selling dresses, and like the rest of us dream of romance, even at age sixty. Our focus is on Issa (Salim Dau) and Siham (Hiam Abbass), the former a fisherman who takes his catch to the street and negotiates sales as in much of the Middle East where every little purchase is preceded by negotiations. For her part Siham runs a women’s dress store and takes in tailoring. Issa is too shy to come right out and profess his love for Siham but despite his age, in one scene he has a wet dream and stains his pants. Yes, even at his age. He also has a bronze phallis in his pocket, broken off a sculpture of the Greek god Apollo that he catches in his net and should prove more lucrative than years of fishing. When the police get wind of the catch they search his home and haul him off to jail.

Gaza is no place for the young. We do not blame Siham’s daughter Leila (Maisa Abd Elhadi) for wanting to get out presumably to go to Europe, but no such permission exists under the occupation. Still the movie as a whole is foremost a comedy, an adorable one, complete with Issa’s matchmaking sister Manal (Manal Awad) who escorts a band of four late-middle-age women for Issa’s inspection. The movie belongs to the older couple who underplay their roles delightfully against a background of Hamas’ rule internally and Israel’s authority outside.

87 minutes. © 2021 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – B+
Acting – A-
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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