REVIEW:The Present [2021]

Rating: 7 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 25 minutes
    Release Date: 2021 (Palestine)
    Studio: Philistine Films
    Director(s): Farah Nabulsi
    Writer(s): Farah Nabulsi & Hind Shoufani

I have my daughter with me.

It’s easy for oppressive regimes to call their opposition terrorists when they have all the control. Wherever you may reside (look at the difference in rhetoric between how the American GOP described BLM protestors during the summer and white insurrectionists during the winter), power always breeds injustice. And it isn’t simply through action either. Some of the worst cases of exploitation and discrimination occur through inaction thanks to rules and regulations that allow humanity to be removed from the equation altogether. That’s why their control remains steadfast despite newer generations seeing through the indoctrination. Where choice could allow a rookie to let compassion dictate his/her response to blatantly innocuous situations, “procedure” beats individuality into submission until empathy is all but a fantasy relegated to fairy tales.

That’s what we’ve seen happen in Palestine for decades as Israel forcefully pushed its way into the West Bank. They take what isn’t theirs, bolster their position with armed soldiers, and hold the area’s residents hostage with rules that thinly veil their declaration of racial, cultural, and religious superiority. And they play the victim to the world when something goes wrong. They justify shooting innocent civilians because a rock or can was thrown in frustration all while reveling in their ability to ignite that provocation. To therefore watch the beginning of Farah Nabulsi‘s The Present (co-written by Hind Shoufani) is to experience the sense of futility that has become intrinsic to Palestinian existence. Survival means playing a game that’s rigged to ensure you’re too tired to fight back.

What better way to appeal to foreigners deluded by Israel’s propaganda than an act as universal as shopping? It’s Yusef (Saleh Bakri) and Noor’s (Mariam Basha) anniversary and thus a day for relaxation and celebration. Where we could prepare days in advance and move independently around our town once hiccups arise, this family must deal with the fact that hiccups are permanent parts of the journey. Both the shop where Yusef bought Noor’s gift and the grocery store he must visit to collect dinner ingredients are beyond the checkpoint set-up a couple blocks from their house. So he and their young daughter Yasmine (Mariam Kanj) must walk, stand in line, risk lengthy security checks, and wonder whether or not they’ll even be let back through upon their return.

While the film’s runtime is only twenty minutes, our experience of the shift from day to night carries exasperated rage. Don’t you dare say the “if he complied with officers” line either since the people who use those words have never had to worry about their compliance still not being enough. This is psychological torture exacerbated by the callous indifference of a ruling class raised to treat their neighbors like animals. It’s a gross use of authority with a baked-in disregard for the impact their actions have on those they toy with out of sheer boredom. That Nabulsi is able to convey that message without bloodshed is almost a miracle and yet there’s nothing happy about her conclusion. Not when Yusef must endure it all again tomorrow.

courtesy of ShortsTV

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