This past weekend a movie theater in Bay Ridge hosted a little film festival featuring some brand new material from the troubled land of, well, what should I call it? I prefer one of its more ancient, lesser used names, in order not to aggravate anyone. You know, I'm talking about the precious swath of land between the Dead and Mediterranean Seas. Between the northernmost reaches of the Red Sea and the southernmost reaches of Lebanon. How about we call it Canaan for now?
Well, anyhow, this post is about the one film I had the pleasure of seeing. It's called Laila's Birthday and it's about a character I can very much identify with, as he goes through one long day of absurdities and tribulations as an overqualified taxi driver in Ramallah. I think most taxi drivers anywhere in the world can empathize with his frustrations, regardless of whether they live in an occupied territory or not. I definitely can, as a NYC cabbie. It's the privilege of life without having to bend over backwards for some basic dignity that is occupied, not necessarily the land, in and of itself, per se.
After the film I got to meet Mohammad Bakri in person, a renowned Israeli Arab actor and director who traveled all the way to Brooklyn just to answer questions from the audience after his movies' screenings. What an honest, gentle, and perpetually optimistic man, despite all of the uncomfortable experiences in his own life. It was an honor for me to shake his hand.
Unfortunately, he's currently being blacklisted, banned, and sued for an older documentary he made about the Jenin invasion. It's too bad not many people showed up to Palestinian Spotlight. I think its location on the very edge of Brooklyn, so far from Manhattan, might have played a role. This is its first year. I happened to stumble across it by way of wheat-pasted posters on a wall in Boerum Hill.
Here are a couple other, more profound depictions of the film, Laila's Birthday: