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WAJIB gets 7.5/10 Duty bound


Directed by Annemarie Jacir

Starring Mohammad Bakri, Saleh Bakri, Maria Zriek

7.5/10

Shadi (Saleh Bakri), a Palestinian now living in Rome, has temporarily returned to Nazareth to prepare for his sister’s (Maria Zriek) wedding. Along with his father, Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri), he must wind his father’s old Volvo through the narrow streets of his old hometown to deliver wedding invitations to family and friends. Through the course of the day the pair reacquaint themselves with each other, and revisit the issues of the past.

Within the limited geographical and dramatic bounds it sets itself Wajib performs phenomenally. It almost never stretches for over-dramatisation, keeping everything within the bounds of believability, but managing to cover quiet a lot of human existence. The personal and the political, families, romance, expectations, generational differences, education, work, death, marriage, architecture, and sickness, are all covered in the course of a one day drive. This road movie (with frequent rest stops) casts itself a wide net of topics to cover, but manages to handle things with a rye sense of humour, and a clipped concise pace.

That concision is certainly admirable, as it tackles many of those big issues in a gentle tongue in cheek manner. This film is edited to the bone, without any fat, but it still manages not to seem rushed with the characters allowed room to breathe. We learn about them through their interaction, and the rather crisp comic dialogue, and the brief series of scenes, as Abu Shadi and Shadi engage in their wedding tasks delivering invites to family and friends. The dialectic between traditional and modernity, the previous and current, is certainly there, but doesn’t always play out as expected. Again there is nothing Earth shattering about the events that Wajib, but that clear execution is everything. This is a film that is very astute in its observations on human nature, and not afraid to poke fun at the absurdity and hypocrisy of it. Yet it is never cruel in doing this, and that kindness of spirit goes a long way in making us love the characters that it portrays.

Real life father and son, Mohammad and Saleh, are key in this. Estranged by distance and events, and certainly harbouring a past history, they bounce off each other remarkably well. Saleh Bakri’s urbane demeanour, his frequent half smirk and casual confidence, put him in sharp contrast to Mohammad Bakri’s gruff familiarity. As they wind their way through the cramped ancient streets of Nazareth (with director Annemarie Jacir conveying an excellent sense of place) they share, quip, and argue.

A deftly handled gentle drama that delivers more than just wedding invitations.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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