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LOCARNO 2017 Competition

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Wajib: A father and sons’ reunion and journey through Nazareth


- LOCARNO 2017: Annemarie Jacir's third film shows a journey that goes far beyond the clear-cut title of the film, all the while respecting the power of the rule of three: time, action and place

Wajib: A father and sons’ reunion and journey through Nazareth
Saleh Bakri and Mohammad Bakri in Wajib

After Salt of This Sea [+see also:
film profile
(FIPRESCI Award at Cannes 2008) and When I Saw You [+see also:
film profile
(2012) - both of which were selected to represent Palestine in the Oscar nominations - Annemarie Jacir touched down at Locarno Festival with Wajib [+see also:
film profile
, her third feature-length film. Wajib (litt. "Duty") has a simple premise and a rather particular context that speaks volumes about Jacir’s country and is universally accessible. This on-the-road film - taking place in a city over the course of one day, focusing on two characters with a specific mission – has brought together producers from the four corners of the world. Behind the single, clear-cut word that serves as the film's title is a flurry of people and some complex dynamics.

The "duty" in question refers to the ritual that exists in Palestine when a young woman gets married, the men of the family must hand out an impressive number of invitations to all their acquaintances: colleagues, neighbours, alumni...  It’s thanks to the encroaching marriage of Abu Shadi's daughter (the actress Mohammad Bakri) and Shadi's sister (with Shadi played by her son in real life, Saleh Bakri, also featuring in The Salt of This Sea), that the father and son find themselves roaming the streets of Nazareth in the car one day at Christmas time, stopping to see all kinds of people in a city where three major monotheistic religions live in harmony, in a trivial banal way that Jacir depicts skilfully by not forcing the matter and thus leaving reality to play out in the background, slowly drawing out the picturesque aspects of Nazareth’s religious diversity. Indeed, this cohabitation is peaceful enough that is well reflected on the invitation cards prepared by Abu Shadi, which Shadi has more difficulty understanding at times. Shadi has previously left Palestine to live in Italy in order to escape certain tensions and atavisms of which his father chooses to be the spokesperson while in the car side-by-side once more.

For the young architect who lives abroad with his partner (and whose father claims that he’s a doctor seeking a wife in Palestine, because "people won't understand"), the worldview and small diplomatic lies told by his elderly father, who smokes too much, completely embody the place he once fled. But the journey that marks his return to his hometown allows him to get back in touch with the young man he once was before moving abroad, discovering that he is able to uncover some hidden truths, teaming up with Abu Shadi for the same reasons - which are, all things considered, quite touching. 

The themes of departure and return that are so dear to Jacir are evident in this film and are integrated into a more universal discourse on the parent-child relationship, as well as on the moment when a child goes his/her separate way, thus forcing a somewhat sad but necessary separation, something that hasn’t really quite begun here. In fact, the unbreakable bond which bears a name other than duty, a tender name that is stronger than everything, and the name that we think of when we recognise something of ourselves in this universal tale. It’s something that emanates from Abu Shadi and Shadi’s time together, and the two actors who embody them: a father and son. 

The film is produced by Palestine, France (JBA Production), Germany (Klinkerfilm), Colombia, Norway (Ape & Bjørn AS), Denmark (Snowglobe), Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, and sold internationally by Pyramide International.

(Translated from French)

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