* * * * (out of five)
My favourite film at the 2018 Sydney Film Festival was Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib, and I’m thrilled it’s getting a theatrical release. Go see it. How often do you see a film set in contemporary Nazareth? And a really good one, with heart, humour, dynamism, and politics served without pressure or pain?
Real-life father and son Mohammad and Saleh Bakri play Abu and Shadi, a mature man and his adult son hand-delivering, over the course of a long day, the wedding invitations for Abu’s daughter (and Shadi’s sister). Shadi’s been living in Italy as an architect, and his man-bun and purple pants are indicative of his modernity, which will end up clashing with not only his father’s traditionalism but also his appeasement.
There is a ton of humour at each of the stops these boisterous, at times cranky men make, and a lot of love as well. But the film really proves its mettle by doling out their political differences in perfectly modulated doses; by the end, we can see each of their points of view, and find empathy everywhere. This is in stark contrast to the flashier, far more didactic The Insult, which also featured Palestinian Christian Arab characters and addressed similar – though far from identical – issues. I saw that film the day after this one at the Festival, and while The Insult won the Fest’s Audience Award, Wajib won mine.