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Gaza Mon Amour (2020) - A Movie Review

Directed by : Tarzan Nasser and Arab Nasser.

Starring : Hiam Abbas as Siham

Salim Dau as Issa

Maisa Abd Eihadi as Leila

Manal Awad as Manal

George Iskandar as Samir

Plot Summary :

An old fisherman is in love with Siham, a woman who works at the market with her daughter. One day, he finds an ancient statue of Apollo in his fishing nets and decides to approach her with the discovery.

Movie Review :

Gaza Mon Amour is a simple and intricately woven one-sided love story that peeks into the life of Issa, an old fisherman who is in love with a woman named Siham, a tailor and boutique shop saleswoman, whose shop is right across the neighborhood. One night while he is at his usual catch, his net catches hold of something which would change the course of his life altogether. He takes his catch home only to find himself under a more confident and spiritual aura. The statue comes to be recognized as the statue of Apollo, the Greek god of music, poetry, light, prophecy, and medicine. Issa, who is extremely terrified with the loot, gets a little excited at the prospect of him getting rich by selling it and getting the money to spend his days comfortably. His happiness is short-lived when the local police arrest him under the pretext of smuggling the statue and put him in jail. He is released after a couple of days and given word by the authorities that he will have his reward. The developing confidence takes Issa right into Siham’s store where he tries asking her hand for marriage but everytime getting cut off by people or his own cowardice. The story also runs side by side showing us Siham as a widow living with a divorced daughter who helps her at the boutique shop and tries to make ends meet.

There are an array of characters appearing throughout the film, most prominently Issa’s sister, Manal who is at the helm of getting his brother married to a beautiful, tall, and rich woman. Then there is the grocery shop owner, Samir who is friends with Issa. Siham’s daughter, Leila appears to be a resentful divorced young woman who hates the prospect of getting married again but wants her mother to get married instead and have a life.

The movie balances and touches upon the subject of middle aged romance between two lonely people in a war torn Gaza. The complexity is handled very subtly by writer-director duo Tarzan and Arab Nasser and Andre Matthias’s hauntingly beautiful music evolving into a love story of

pure form against the turbulent backdrop of the Gaza strip which is sustained naturally throughout the performances of Salim Daw and Hiam Abbas. There are scenes in the film where you can absolutely feel the electrifying chemistry between the lead actors, for instance the bus stop scene where Issa sees Siham and tries to act cool and lights a cigarette and then throws it away as he gets the look from Siham, who for a second gets a bit disgusted but then smiles away wryly seeing him throw it away. It’s very comical seeing Issa try to light up a conversation with Siham and failing miserably but there is also a very sweet innocence aura in the way he tries to show his love for her in small parts. The scene where they get out of the public transport and he offers her his umbrella because it’s a rainy day and she has to walk some distance more to reach her shop while he adjusts himself with his hoodie. Issa’s character is no stranger to us with his behaviour and actions in the movie as every one of us has been in a situation somewhat really close to his story. The rapid succession of character development in Issa’s character is a beautiful highlight of the film followed by Siham’s. Siham is also your average woman next door surviving a man eat man world and getting her life together with as much strength as she can. Her constant vouching to make her life and her daughter, Leila’s life better comes down to her through Leila, who is fed up of being a seamstress and just wants to live and start off a new life by continuing at the local university. There are very few moments where you could actually feel Siham is breaking down and cannot handle the weight of the responsibilities, but being resolutely practical she handles it quite well. Both actors deliver a nuanced and poignant portrayal of their respective characters which proportionally balances the main character, i.e. Gaza itself. The country’s war torn scenery is beautifully captured and encapsulated by the director duo and visualised over the camera by Christophe Graillot.

The movie does not let you feel bored for a moment with its weirdness and deadpan humour. There are some increasingly goofy scenes filled with satire where Issa tries to sell off a particular part of the statue calling it an “item”, and getting uncomfortable when he has a wet dream while he is spending a night in jail and trying to get his way around the officer by getting defensive about it, another scene is in Siham’s store where Issa has just gotten his pants shortened and it’s funny as the mother recalls the incident to the daughter in a whimsical way. The movie also shows the various conditions that life is lived under in stifling conditions. For example, we can see Samir complaining to Issa about his life here in Gaza and how he plans to move out to Europe with his wife and strike up a fortune. Siham who is equally frustrated with the power cuts which happen while she’s rolling out bread. Siham’s store owner and boss who is unable to run the store under losses and cuts off Siham’s salary which leads to more disappointment. The last scene where the crowd is celebrating the arrival of nukehead into the city streets and cries of joy can be heard everywhere. There is also Issa’s backstory which gives us a view into his past and his relationship with his family; how he fell in love with a girl for the

first time and wanted to marry her, only for the proposal to be turned down by the girl’s father and Issa getting scolded by his father for getting him into this mess. The seemingly vile portrayal of the army and the residents of the city also brags a lot of senile energy into the frame.

As Roxana Hadidi of Roger Ebert writes, “this is a delicate, amusing portrait of what longing looks like in the latter half of life, when so many doors are being closed in one’s face that the prospect of an open one seems like a mirage.” Gaza Mon Amour does not fail to amuse and being Palestine’s official entry for Best International Feature Film at the 2022 Academy Awards, it absolutely gets it’s well deserved response in form of Daw and Abbas’s decades of experience filled with realism and absurdism letting you wonder the pleasures and complexities and conformities of what love actually is? And what does it feel like?

Mohammad Faisal Noor.

Mohammad Faisal Noor is a 24 year old movie buff and a Pacino fan. He likes listening toclassic rock and writing poems in his leisure time. He holds a BA in English literature and iscurrently living in Cuttack, Odisha.

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