REVIEW: Ave Maria [2015]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 15 minutes | Release Date: 2015 (Israel)
Studio: Ouat Media
Director(s): Basil Khalil
Writer(s): Basil Khalil & Daniel Yáñez Khalil

“Jews have violated the Virgin!”

Director Basil Khalil and co-writer Daniel Yáñez have come up with a cutely comic conceit for their short film Ave Maria. It’s the West Bank—miles from civilization—and a car carrying a Jewish man, his wife, and his mother crashes into a Catholic church run by five Arab nuns who have taken a vow of silence. If everyone follows the rites of their religion, the women able to help the family mustn’t talk and the family, who realize that it’s now the Shabbat, can’t operate any machinery necessary to move along. It’s quite the conundrum for the devout and a perfect recipe for discovering a common ground as human beings with enough laughs to keep us entertained for the duration.

The comedy is mostly visual such as four nuns in dark habits ignoring the constantly ringing doorbell so that only young Sr. Marie (Maria Zreik) in her white has the impatience to see what’s happening outside. Then there is the decapitated Virgin Mary statue, the bickering old Jewish mother (Ruth Farhi‘s Esther) blaming her daughter-in-law (Maya Koren‘s Rachel) for the commotion, and the torn foibles of Moshe (Shady Srour) desperately trying to honor his religious obligation despite knowing the only way out of his predicament is to ignore it. There probably hasn’t been this much noise at the church since its construction, but you can hardly blame everyone’s mounting frustration.

It doesn’t get any better than watching a young nun’s sass when Moshe asks Marie to dial and hold the phone to his ear so he won’t “technically be using it” while he’s checking his wristwatch. I don’t know the particulars of Jewish Sabbath and what “machinery” is off limits, but the hypocrisy is fantastic. More than that is how looks can deceive so easily inside a world built upon historical grievance and bigoted preconception. Whether it head nun Sr. Marie Angeline (Huda Al Imam) knowing how to disassemble a gun or Sr. Marie tinkering under an automobile’s hood, kindness goes a long way to finding solutions. You do what you must in the moment because there’s always time for a few Hail Marys afterwards.

courtesy of Shorts HD

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