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Film Review: Soraida, A Woman of Palestine

Film Review: Soraida, A Woman of Palestine


By Sonia Nettnin


The women talk about the occupation and how to deal with it. Anger gives the oppressor the most control. Will humanity rise above the conflict for peace?" (Photo courtesy of CPFF)

In Director Tahani Rached’s latest film, “Soraida, A Woman of Palestine,” Rached explores the life of Soraida Abed Hussein and her friends, who live under military occupation in Ramallah.

“They control our whole lives,” Soraida says. “…they play with us like puppets on a string.”

Israeli forces declare curfews on a truck loudspeaker. Daily activities in the streets cease and the people rush home.

Soraida remarks they should create a commercial for a product called curfew-lite.

She is funny, sarcastic, intelligent, and caring. When she waxes philosophical Soraida is perspicacious because she has a keen eye. While she wears a t-shirt about the pain of apartheid, she hangs her family’s wet laundry on a clothesline. Soraida speaks openly about the occupation’s dirty laundry.

“It’s like living an eternal damnation on earth,” she says.

In front of the camera, her friends are candid also.

“I feel this soil is like one of my children,” Oum Ali says. Planting purple petunias in her garden, she cultivates the brown earth. Oum Ali has detailed dreams about the occupation. One night she dreamed she had to clean little Sharon’s dirty and abandoned kitchen. In another dream she told Sharon’s mother that Sharon had a knife and his defense minister was beside him. Living in a terrifying world yields dreams about past massacres infused with present-day reality.

Palestinian society is a close-knit community. Soraida’s neighbors are friends who created their own support network. During Israel’s 2002 invasion of Ramallah, which restricted people to their homes for days; one man, Ahmed, rode his bicycle to the market, so he could bring bread to his neighbors.

Rached intersperses their dialog with footage of Israeli tanks treading Ramallah. White lights glare in the night and people fear home raids and gunfire. These dramatic episodes magnify the peoples’ disclosures about the occupation that accosts their daily lives. Their vivid recollections speak the rhythm of resistance and Rached captures their lucid reflections into a narrative mosaic.

Soraida’s neighbors gather together for tea and thought-provoking discussions. They have a serious discussion about whether Israeli soldiers still possess humanity when they inflict extensive pain upon them. One woman, who spent nine years in prison, says the soldiers do not show their humanity to her. Thus, her experiences created a foundation for her beliefs. Soraida believes she cannot be a prisoner to her anger. When a person is angry, then the oppressor has the most control. Their intense conversation illustrates a single truth: Palestinians find ways to deal with the occupation and resile from its oppression.

The women talk about Rana’s daughter. One day she climbed on top of an Israeli tank. She opened the lid. Palestinian life is within the context of military occupation and warfare, so sociopolitical events are primary subjects for conversation.

Although Soraida has several social roles, her dominant identity is Soraida the mother. Her children’s safety is first and foremost. Soraida’s daughter, Rantia, is a thinker, just like her mother. She asks questions and she has the desire to learn about her surroundings. Soraida teaches her children so they understand their harsh, complicated world.

Overall, the peoples’ main concern is their children and the effects of the occupation on their growth and their development. Soraida’s five-year-old son, Aram, wants to die and live in space. His desperate thoughts speak volumes about their life conditions.

Life under military occupation requires that people have a good head on their shoulders. They have neither the time nor the energy for pettiness when they deal with soldiers whose forte is games. While Palestinians talk, their exchange communicates solidarity. At any moment, someone may lose their life. Under these conditions, people are struggling, but helpful and amicable.

While she looks in her bedroom mirror, Soraida reflects on Palestinian history and her identity. She wears a traditional Palestinian dress and she feels a part of it. Her identity is clear: Palestinian. Yet, she feels like the people lost some of their continuity. Time shines through the embroidery and Soraida is a part of the threads’ stories.

A Ramallah street musician sings: “Destiny is a panderer and the times have deceived us. Israeli locked us up behind doors that betrayed us.”

Will time bring peace to the people?

“Open your arms,” she says to a group of young men at a woman’s rights center. She does not want people to bottle their emotions because of the occupation. A young man contends that men and women have specific roles in Palestinian society. Soraida responds frankly, but with kindness, because she embraces difference.

While Soraida visits her mother, she watches her sister fly a kite on the roof. In the distance, hilltop settlements pervade the landscape. Beyond them is the Mediterranean Sea. With staring gaze Soraida’s eyes are asea. In the open air, she feels free.

During a sunset, she gazes at the horizon. Soraida and her friends’ desire for freedom on their land are like the sun: steadfast, luminous and ablaze.

*************

Research, Script and Direction: Tahani Rached
Produced by: Yves Bisaillon
The National Film Board of Canada
Sound: Yann Cleary
Picture Editing: Helene Girard
Sound Editing: Claude Beaugrand
Music: Jean Derome
Director of Photography: Jacques Leduc
Country of Production:
Year: 2004
Length: 119 minutes

http://www.nfb.ca

*************

Sonia Nettnin is a freelance writer. Her articles and reviews demonstrate civic journalism, with a focus on international social, economic, humanitarian, gender, and political issues. Media coverage of conflicts from these perspectives develops awareness in public opinion.

Nettnin received her bachelor's degree in English literature and writing. She did master's work in journalism. Moreover, Nettnin approaches her writing from a working woman's perspective, since working began for her at an early age.

She is a poet, a violinist and she studied professional dance. As a writer, the arts are an integral part of her sensibility. Her work has been published in the Palestine Chronicle, Scoop Media and the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. She lives in Chicago.

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