Sonia Nettnin Film Review: Another Road Home
Film Review: Another Road Home
By Sonia Nettnin
Danae searched for Moussa, the man who helped raise her, so she could reconnect with him. They reminisce about the past. Moussa, like most Palestinian fathers, is a hard-working and an honorable man" (Photo courtesy of CPFF).
Director Danae Elon takes a personal, cinematic journey in search of her Palestinian, fatherly caregiver in “Another Road Home.”
She is the daughter of Israeli writer, essayist and critic of Israeli politics, Amos Elon. After the 1967 war, the family rented a flat in a monastery in East Jerusalem for several years. Soon after the 1972 Black September tragedy, the Elon Family heard a knock at the door.
His name was Mahmoud Moussa Abdullah and he was in search of work. Moussa, who lived in Battir, supported a large family; and he wanted to send his eight sons to American colleges. Although Moussa lived in the U.S. for a short time, visa and permit restrictions forced him to return home. Even though he hoped for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, he saw no end to the conflict or the occupation. Most important, he did not want to see his sons killed, jailed or subjected to Israeli home demolitions. Moussa experienced Israeli interrogations and he did not want his sons living under these conditions. Amos and his wife Beth decided they needed someone to look after their young daughter, so they hired Moussa.
For several years, he worked eighteen-hour days so he could give his sons an education in America.
After 9/11, Elon wondered what happened to the man who helped raise her and she had concerns about the deteriorating relations between Israelis and Palestinians. Since she spent most of her childhood with Moussa, she had questions for her parents and for him. Elon was missing something in her life.
After several unsuccessful phone calls to Patterson, New Jersey where she last heard Moussa’s sons lived, Elon drives to Patterson in search of them.
Patterson is home to a large, Palestinian community, so Elon asks Arab-Americans on the streets and in the stores about the Abdullah Family. Finally, she meets one of the family’s cousins and he connects her with Khalid, one of Moussa’s sons. Danae finds out Moussa is back home, which prompts a couple of phone calls. Moussa senses the family’s unresolved issues so he makes the dangerous trip out of Battir to Patterson. Amos sees that Moussa wants to cement their relationship and “…it proves he’s a better man than we are,” he says.
In the meantime, Danae speaks with the son she remembers the most: Nasser. Sometimes, Moussa brought Nasser with him to the Elon’s house. Twenty years later, they sit near the cash registers of Nasser’s drug store and they have a serious conversation.
“I am so proud he did all of this for us,” he says.
Nasser asks Danae how she perceived his father, and if she understood why he sacrificed leaving his family so he could take care of her. She says that his father played an important role in her life, which is why she searched for him.
When the director’s parents arrive to meet Moussa and his sons, they hesitate in the car. Suddenly, there are concerns with Islamic radicalism and they question whether the Abdullah Family agrees with suicide bombings. The scene illuminates the kinds of fears instilled in people through U.S. mainstream media. In earlier conversations, Amos shares that there is pain between Israelis and Palestinians because of politics and military occupation. The car scene is one example of the conflict’s oppression. When an oppressor-oppressed dichotomy exists within a society, then there cannot be normal, social relations.
At the airport, there are emotional greetings. Moussa’s sons understand their father suffered through checkpoints and border crossings so he could visit them. After Danae and Moussa break the ice, he meets her parents. Amos refers to the tension between their families as the political barrier.
After dinner, Danae expresses there are contradictions within her family. Amos leaves for an important engagement, but adds that they should continue their conversation and resolve all of the problems. At one point, the mother confesses how comfortable she felt leaving her daughter in Moussa’s care over the years.
Moussa has a calm, reserved disposition. With his gentle, good-natured manner, he puts people at ease. While his sons and the Elon Family spoke about him prior to his arrival, their thoughts conveyed the power Moussa had in shaping their lives. Their successes in life – including the Elon Family – are a result of this one man. He gave the people around him the support they needed to achieve their goals.
Moussa visits Danae’s apartment where she asks him why he used to iron her army uniform.
“I thought about the person,” he says.
They have tears in their eyes.
While traveling back to Battir, Moussa expresses his concern that Danae is still single. She says she likes her independence, so he tells her that working 18 hours a day gave him independence.
Since they cannot enter Israel via Tel Aviv, they fly to Amman, Jordan. From there, they drive to the Allenby Bridge, the border crossing. After five hours of interrogation by Israeli soldiers, they drive through a series of checkpoints and roadblocks for another day until they reach his village. A picture of his eight sons is on the wall. In the United States, they have the freedom and the opportunities to lead normal, prosperous lives. They stand proudly. Whenever Moussa appears in the film, he has a glimmer in his eye.
When asked for advice on life, Moussa says people should give something and “…share with people.”
Despite violent and oppressive living conditions Moussa overcame them. He sacrificed himself for his family and the people around him. His inspiring life shows the key to a fulfilling life means giving of oneself, giving love.
Directed and Produced by:
Country of production: USA
Language: English and Arabic with English subtitles
Production Company: QiFilm
Co-Producer: Arik Berstein
Editor: Bryan Gunnar Cole
Composer: Peter Scherer
Cinematography: Andrew T. Dunn
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.