By SI Blog Reader AC
One of the pleasures of living in Toronto is attending the aam aadmi -friendly Toronto International Film Festival – or TIFF in short – at the fag end of summer.
September brings a mouth watering treat to the movie buffs of this city in the form of a virtual cornucopia of movies from every part of the world.
In addition to the big ticket Hollywood premieres, there are innumerable indie affairs that get shown at the festival.
Yesterday I decided to sample some of the fare and settled on a film by the Lebanese American film maker Ziad Doueiri.
Based on a bestselling book by Yasmina Khadra, “The Attack” tells the story of an Israeli-Arab’s quest for answers in the aftermath of his wife’s tragic suicide bombing mission.
Dr. Amin Jaafari, played by veteran Arab actor Ali Suliman, is a successful surgeon who along with his lovely wife Siham is the toast of Tel-Aviv Society.
He is a Muslim and she is a (Arab) Christian, but these differences hardly seem to matter as they have embraced a western, liberal lifestyle that has helped them build a wide social circle comprised of like-minded Jewish friends.
For readers who may not be very familiar with the region, there are a small number of Arabs living in Israel outside of the disputed territories.
Amin’s world comes crashing down when he is asked to identify the remains of a purported suicide bomber at the mortuary and they turn out to be his wife’s.
He is taken in by the Israeli police for interrogation and immediately the questions about his loyalties begin.
Amin who is in a state of denial about his wife’s role also vigorously denies knowing anything about the attack itself.
The police set him free after a couple of days for lack of evidence.
Amin receives a confessional letter written by his wife a day before her death which convinces him of her involvement.
Searching for Answers
Determined to find out more about his dead wife’s secret life, Amin embarks on a journey to Nablus, in the heart of Palestine.
Here he encounters a much different world than the one he is used to – an urban jungle mired in poverty, fear and oppression and a penchant for celebration of “martyrs” such as his wife who take part in gruesome attacks on Israeli citizens.
Amin constantly flirts with danger as he doggedly pursues a well guarded local Imam famous for his fiery sermons and also known to bless aspiring suicide bombers.
Towards the end of the movie, Amin does find some answers, but they in turn just raise broader questions for both Amin and the viewer.
For example, was Amin’s life really a story of successfully overcoming all odds or was he just a poster boy for the Israeli establishment, a symbol to be shown off as an example of Israeli generosity and tolerance of Arab minorities?
What are the responsibilities of a minority people, especially where their sympathies may not be aligned with those of the majority?
Is it acceptable to betray a loved one while in the service of a greater cause?
Although framed within the Arab-Israeli conflict, these questions have a universal context.
While the acting was uniformly good, Ali Suliman’s understated portrayal of Amin was top notch.
Without ever resorting to histrionics, Ali expertly takes the viewer through a range of emotions – anger, love, denial and finally helplessness as he tries to make sense of it all.
The background score was economical yet haunting, consisting at most times of a few guitar chords.
The cinematography was excellent with some memorable scenes such as the mortuary scene and the meeting with the Imam still fresh in this viewer’s mind.
This was a fine movie overall that provides food for thought on one of humanity’s festering conflicts and also on the human condition.