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Sonia Nettnin Film Review: Yasmine’s Song

Film Review: Yasmine’s Song

By Sonia Nettnin At The Chicago Palestine Film Festival

Will Ziyad and Yasmine be together in the end? (Photo courtesy of CPFF)

“Yasmine’s Song” tells the story of Yasmine and Ziyad, a young couple who meet in secret and contemplate marriage, but are under cultural, economic and social pressures.

Ziyad owns a small greenhouse and sells flowers, but the economic strangulation caused by Israel’s wall makes it difficult for Ziyad to save money so he can marry his secret love. Yasmine, whose name means “jasmine,” like the flower, sings with a sweet voice, but too loud for her mother, who is concerned about what the neighbors think of her family. The mother’s comment about Yasmine’s singing is a way to address Yasmine’s future arranged marriage with Abu Rami’s son - already decided by Yasmine’s father. Yasmine sidesteps the issue because she did not make the decision. The arranged marriage represents her loss of personal choice.

Although Yasmine’s father promised her to Abu Rami, Yasmine has strong feelings for Ziyad. However, the young man, who is the son of a martyr, holds back because of a lack of money and the absence of his father. This dynamic plays a crucial role in Ziyad’s lack of initiative. Although Ziyad receives some paternal support from his friend, Abu Odeh, the encouragement and support a father provides would ensure Ziyad a place in the community. The name Ziyad means “to increase,” and Ziyad does not present his case to Yasmine’s father. Surrounded by a cement wall eight meters high causes psychological effects on the people. The wall is a barrier to peoples’ thinking.

As a physical structure, the wall affects peoples’ movement as well. When Ziyad rides his bike he has to get off the bike and carry it over a cement block. Spray-painted on a cement, wall block are the letters “u-s-t-i-c-e,” or justice without the j. The obstacle course the wall creates for peoples’ daily lives affects peoples’ decision-making in their personal lives. Since Abu Rami just received an Israeli permit to travel to Gaza and he does not know if Israeli forces will allow him back into the West Bank, should the families have the wedding before he leaves? The wall causes not only economic asphyxiation but emotional pressure.

The film tries to answer the question about which union is stronger: familial agreements or love? In a patriarchal society, do fathers decide who their daughters will marry? The director addresses theses sensitive issues through a diplomatic, feminist lens and with insightful artistry.

Whether Ziyad will find the courage to ask Yasmine’s father for her hand in marriage; or whether Yasmine’s mother can mediate a resolution to the problem contributes to the tension and the suspense within the plot.

Following one’s heart or remaining loyal to the family are tough matters to juggle when a cement wall surrounds people struggling to live their lives. Family lines run deep and bind people together. When living conditions are difficult and unpredictable, familial blood and village life is stability.

Whether it was the natural landscape, the village, the clothing, or the way the actors worked with all of the above made this film visually appealing. Shop owner Abu Odeh, played by Mohammad Bakri, is a natural. If I had not known who Bakri is I would have thought he was a shop owner.

“Yasmine’s song” is about remaining steadfast (sumoud) amid societal tradition and the effects of a wall.

-This film (in Arabic with English subtitles) will be showing at the Gene Siskel Film Center, located at 164 N. State St. for the 5th Annual Chicago Palestine Film Festival.
Saturday, May 20, 3:15 P.M. and Tuesday, May 23, 6:00 P.M. For more information, please visit

Ziyad: Hesham Suleiman
Yasmine: Hanan Hillo
Mother: Samia Kuzmoz
Father: Walid Abdul Salam
Haifa: Ruba Blal
Abu Saji: Hussein Nakleh
Abu Antar: Ahmad Abou Saloum
On location in Jericho and Abu Dis
Guest Star: Mohamad Bakri
Written and directed by: Najwa Najjar
Director of Photography: Koutaiba al Janabi
Supervising Producer: Atif Ghani (Aimimage UK)
Production Manager: Sawsan Qaoud
Line Producer: Hayyan Yacoub
Editors: Sotira Kyriacou; Diarmidi Scrimshaw
Additional editing: Sa’ed Andoni
On-Line Editor: Arvid Eriksson
Music: Souad Massi
Script consultant: Mark Travis
Translation: Abla Toubasi
Funded by: Diakonia
Swiss Representative Office in Ramallah
Palestinian Ministry of Culture
Executive Producer: Ustura Films Ltd. Palestine
Duration: 20 minutes

Gene Siskel Film Center Schedule

Film Name Days and Times Showing

-Waiting Sat. May 6 at 7 P.M. and Wed. May 10 at 6 P.M

-Covering Perils: Sun. May 7 at 3 P.M.
Four Shorts on
Palestinian Themes

-Improvisation Sat. May 13 at 3:30 P.M. and Tues. May 16 at 6:30 P.M.
-Isochronism: Twenty-Four (films shown together on both days)
Hours in Jabba

-Avenge But One Sat. May 13 at 5 P.M. and Wed. May 17 at 8 P.M.
Of My Eyes

-All that Remained Mon. May 15 at 6:15 P.M. and Thurs. May 18 at 6:15
-Last Supper at Abu-Dis (films shown together on both days)

-Kings and Extras Fri. May 19 at 6 P.M. and Mon. May 22 at 8:15
-The Fourth Room (films shown together on both days)

-Since You’ve Been Gone Sat. May 20 at 3:15 P.M. and Tues. May 23 at 6 P.M.
-Yasmine’s Song (films shown together on both days)

-The Last Moon Sat. May 20 at 5 P.M. and Wed. May 24 at 6 P.M.


U.S. journalist and film critic Sonia Nettnin writes about social, political, economic, and cultural issues. Her focus is the Middle East.

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