Movie Review

Wajib (2017) by Annemarie Jacir

Original Name: Wajib

Director:  Annemarie Jacir

Runtime: 96 minutes

Language: Arabic

IMDB Link:

Annemarie Jacir: is a Palestinian filmmaker and poet. All three features she has made so far were selected as Palestine’s entries for the Foreign Language Academy Award. ‘Salt of the Sea’ was also the first feature directed by a Palestinian woman.

“The initial seed was the tradition of hand-delivering wedding invitations. It’s supposed to be the tradition, but very few Palestinians still practice it anymore. []. I was interested in the masculine tradition of delivering wedding invitations, because it’s only men who do it. I was interested in the father-son relationship and a story that was based on my most dialogue-heavy script. But really what it’s about is the things that men in general don’t say to each other.”

Wajib, the only Middle-East selection of this 2017 Women’s Cinema Festival, is a road trip movie at heart played by real-life father and son Mohammad Bakri and Jacir’s regular Saleh Bakri. The title means as the “duty” where the male members of the family go to friend houses to deliver wedding invitation. Such a simple premise evolves into a playful and heartwarming tale of father-son chemistry, the generation gap of Palestine community in this the Israeli city of Nazareth. In particular, white lies occur regularly in Abu and Shadi’s conversations. These lies and contradictions usually start off in a comedic manner before we eventually learn some truth behind them. Sometimes the father would lie to go in tune with the community, sometimes the son would hide some certain facts, especially when it comes to his mother, Abu ex-wife who left him to live in America.

Although slight in content (it’s only about 93 minutes) and not the film with great ambition, what makes Wajib a winner is a light touch but grounded observation of familial relationship that exploring the different perspective from different generation and from the Palentinese who live in the country versus those who live oversea. Shadi’s working in Italy as a result of someone ratting out on him years ago and sometimes you can see his frustration with the hometown in the present: full of trash on the street (but isn’t Rome the same), people’s gossip, lame wedding music… It doesn’t help that his father still holds some of the values that he considers as outdated. As for Abu, he’s the one who stays home to deal with all the issues, so he understands the way things work. The dynamic between them constantly switch between deep respect for each other, their mutual love, their own ego and the difference in mindset. They don’t get along quite often, they argue a lot (at one point they lost their heads) but their chemistry is always strong enough to carry the movie forward.

Episodic in nature, Wajib tells a 2-day story where they visit around town and meet different people. Some eccentric, some archetypal, but they all add up to frame the big picture of the current life in Israel. There’s a political unrest happening in the background. You can see fragments of it on some of the street where the duo passes, or on the radio where it details some political movement. It only serve as a spice, however, for this father-and-son road trip. Wajib does have its dramatic climax, as on the inside the growing conflict between the father and the son (which revolves around inviting that person who ratted him out) and on the outside their own worry if Shadi’s mom can make it to her daughter’s wedding. These conflicts escalate into the satisfying climax that carry the weight of the narrative. And the resolve (in which there’s no resolve) is quiet but equally fitting. Wajib might feel like a small film that could slip under the radar, but it benefits from its minimal premise to tell a simple but cozy road trip that both details the life of the current-day Nazareth, and the playful but observable familial dynamic that feel almost too real.

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